Executions feared in Indonesia despite outcry from rights groups

The executions of 14 people on death row for drug trafficking loomed Thursday in Indonesia despite outcry from the UN and rights groups and that have faulted the country's justice system in finding convictions.

The convicts could face a firing squad at the Nusa Kambangan prison complex off the coast of Java at midnight Thursday, said Antonius Badar Karwayu, who represented two of the convicts.

"The families have been notified that there would be executions and the convicts had been asked for their last wishes," Karwayu said. 

"Their families were given until 3 pm today to visit them so it's likely that the executions would be carried out tonight," he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Indonesian President Joko Widodo "to consider declaring a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia and to move towards its abolition," Ban's office said in a statement on Thursday.

While the attorney general's office has not announced a date for the executions, spokesman Muhammad Rum confirmed that 14 convicts would be executed "soon" and that they included Freddy Budiman and Merry Utami - both Indonesian - and Pakistani Zulfikar Ali.

"I have only been informed of those three names," he said. 

The Community Legal Aid Institute, which advocates for the convicts, said those facing execution are four Indonesians, six Nigerians, two Zimbabweans, one Indian and one Pakistani. 

Local and international rights groups have urged Widodo to halt the impending executions.  

They have said that some of the convicts could have been victims of miscarriages of justice, after allegations that police used torture to extract confession from suspects and that detainees were denied access to lawyers.

India has verbally requested from Indonesia's Foreign Ministry "that all legal recourse ... be exhausted before the death penalty is carried out" against Indian national Gurdeep Singh, who was convicted in 2005.

Singh's legal representative was also filing for presidential clemency for his client.

The United Nations human rights commissioner on Wednesday urged Indonesia to end the death penalty. 

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in South-East Asia," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that the convicts had been given their rights according to the laws.

"The death penalty being applied in Indonesia is not against international law," he said. 

"Those sentenced to death have gone through a legal process and they are big traffickers, not users," he said.   

Last year, Indonesia executed 14 death row convicts in a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and the European Union.

About 121 people are currently on death row in Indonesia, including 35 foreigners, mainly for drug-related crimes, according to the Indonesian Justice Ministry. 

The president has taken a tough stance against drug trafficking since his election in 2014, saying the country is facing a drug emergency.

Last update: Thu, 28/07/2016 - 19:18
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