HRW urges Indonesia to stop execution of Pakistani national, others for alleged drug trafficking

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NEW YORK, July 27 (APP): Human Rights Watch (HRW), a leading international watchdog group, Wednesday called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to “urgently commute” the death sentences of Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali and at least 13 other people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking.

The New York-based group said the Indonesian government had not announced a date for the executions, but had warned that “the time is approaching.” Jakarta-based diplomats have reported that the attorney general’s office informed them that the executions will take place on
July 29, 2016, HRW said.

“President Jokowi should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and avoid a potential diplomatic firestorm by sparing the lives of the 14 or more people facing imminent execution,” Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director, said in a statement. “Jokowi should also ban the death penalty
for drug crimes, which international law prohibits, rather than giving the go-ahead for more multiple executions.”

Authorities have already transferred several death row prisoners, including Zulfiqar Ali and Indonesian national Merry Utami, to Nusa Kambangan island, where the executions are slated to occur.

HRW noted that Pakistan’s government is seeking to dissuade Indonesia from executing Ali, who has been on death row since 2005 for drug smuggling, alleging that Ali’s “trial was not fair.”

HRW said foreign embassy personnel and media reports have confirmed that the death row prisoners also include four Nigerians, one Zimbabwean, and several Indonesian nationals. The Nigerians are Eugene Ape, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, Michael Titus Igweh, and Obinna Nwajagu, who were all arrested for drug trafficking in 2002 or 2003.

The government has not released an official list of prisoners facing the death penalty in the coming days. Indonesia’s security chief, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, told reporters on May 13 that he wants these executions to occur without a “soap opera,” a reference to Brazil’s and Australia’s highly publicized but unsuccessful efforts to prevent the execution of their citizens in Indonesia’s most recent mass
executions in April 2015.

Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, according to HRW. President Widodo has sought to justify the use of the death penalty on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had “destroyed the future of the nation.” In December 2014 he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an “important shock therapy” for anyone who violates Indonesia’s drug laws.

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked, it said. Most recently, on March 4, 2015, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, stated that there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.”

Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter “murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”