Friday, 29 September 2006

UN: Australia should tackle drugs penalty

A United Nations (UN) human rights expert has criticised Australia's selective approach to the death penalty, and encouraged it to oppose the penalty for all drug trafficking offences.

Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Australia was pursuing the "worst possible strategy" of only speaking out against the execution of its own citizens.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the Australian government "essentially has to bite the bullet".

"It either confronts the issue squarely, in which case there's a chance of some impact, or it takes a position which is almost certain not to yield any productive results."

Professor Alston's comments echo growing criticism of the Australian government's position in the light of news that six Australians were now facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling.

"I would've thought that the worst possible strategy is the one being pursued, and that is what we might call the Australian exceptionalism strategy, to say that we're not going to say anything generally about the fact that you apply the death penalty for, in relation to drug offences, but we are going to say that you shouldn't execute Australians," Professor Alston said.

He encouraged Australia to raise the issue of the death penalty for drug offences at the current meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

"There's a lot of support in international law for the proposition that the death penalty should only be applied to the most serious offences, that those offences would normally be defined as including some lethal dimension.

"That's absent here [in drug cases], and therefore we should move, as a civilised world, beyond the practice of executing people who are carrying drugs," he said.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Executions in Indonesia since 1995

Indonesia has executed 13 people since 1995, with the execution of three men in Central Sulawesi last week. All executions were carried out by firing squad.

According to Amnesty International (AI), at least 90 people are now believed to be under sentence of death in Indonesia.

AI said the latest executions were the first it had recorded in Indonesia since May 2005. "This raises strong fears for the fate of all those who are currently awaiting execution," it said.

In the past 11 years, Indonesia has carried out the following known executions:

Name: Marinus Riwu, 49 (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 22 September 2006
At: Palu, Sulawesi
Convicted of: Premeditated murder and inciting riots in the town of Poso in May 2000

Name: Dominggus da Silva, 43 (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 22 September 2006
At: Palu, Sulawesi
Convicted of: Premeditated murder and inciting riots in the town of Poso in May 2000

Name: Fabianus Tibo, 61 (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 22 September 2006
At: Palu, Sulawesi
Convicted of: Premeditated murder and inciting riots in the town of Poso in May 2000

Name: Turmudi bin Kasturi (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: May 2005
At: --
Convicted of: Murder

Name: Astini (f)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: March 2005
At: --
Convicted of: Murder

Name: Saelow Prasert (m)
Nationality: Thai
Executed: 1 October 2004
At: --
Convicted of: Drug trafficking (attempt to smuggle 12.19 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia)

Name: Namsong Sirilak (f)
Nationality: Thai
Executed: 1 October 2004
At: --
Convicted of: Drug trafficking (attempt to smuggle 12.19 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia)

Name: Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey (m)
Nationality: Indian
Executed: 5 August 2004
At: --
Convicted of: Drug trafficking (attempt to smuggle 12.19 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia)

De facto moratorium on executions

Name: Gerson Pandie (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 2001
At: Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur Province
Convicted of: Murder

Name: Fredik Soru (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 2001
At: Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur Province
Convicted of: Murder

De facto moratorium on executions

Name: Katjong Laranu (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 1995
At: --
Convicted of: Murder

Name: Karta Tjahyadi (m)
Nationality: Indonesian
Executed: 1995
Convicted of: Murder

Name: Chan Ting Chong (Steven Chong) (m)
Nationality: Malaysian
Executed: 13 January 1995
At: --
Convicted of: Drug trafficking (first person known to have been executed for drug-related offences in Indonesia)

Friday, 22 September 2006

Indonesia: Three executed in Sulawesi

The Indonesian government executed three men in Palu, central Sulawesi, early this morning, despite a campaign by Christian and Muslim leaders and the men's claims of innocence.

Police officers said Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus Silva were shot by a firing squad before dawn, the first executions recorded by Amnesty International in Indonesia since May 2005.

The three Christians were convicted of orchestrating attacks on Muslim villages in a period of violence between the two communities that saw hundreds of people killed.

Indonesia's Antara newsagency reported that the bodies of Fabianus Tibo and Marianus Riwu were handed to their families at 9am local time, at Nuha village in East Luwuk district, South Sulawesi.

The BBC News report on the executions noted that: "Despite government denials, many Indonesians connect the timing of the men's deaths with the planned execution of three Muslim militants for their part in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, that killed more than 200 people.

Violence and calm
Antara also reported that that some violence broke out in Christian communities following the executions.

It said provincial police spokesman Major Marten Raja spoke with Deutsche Presse-Agentur by phone from Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province.

He reportedly said: "Some people expressed their anger after the executions by blocking some main roads and throwing rocks at the local attorney general's house."

BBC News reported that riots broke out in Sulawesi, with protesters "torching cars and looting shops", but Palu itself remained calm.

'Setback for human rights'
Human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement that the executions were "a serious setback for all those combating the use of death penalty across the world".

"Amnesty International is deeply disappointed that despite the debate about the use of the death penalty that the case had sparked throughout Indonesia in recent months, the executions of the three men went ahead."

The organisation said "state sanctioned killing is all the more unacceptable where, as in this case, there have been serious doubts about the fairness of the trial".

AI had received reports that the three men had not received a fair trial.

"In particular, there were concerns that witness testimony provided as evidence by the defence may have been ignored by the Court when giving its verdict.

"Further, there were demonstrators armed with stones outside the courthouse, demanding that the three be sentenced to death, and their legal representatives were subjected to intimidation including death threats," AI said.

'Strong fears'
According to AI, at least 90 people were believed to be under sentence of death in Indonesia and the organisation said today's executions raised "strong fears for the fate of all those who are currently awaiting execution".

Related stories:
Poso 3 may be shot tomorrow -- 20 September, 2006
Poso appeal may not have enough time -- 05 September, 2006
Indonesia: Poso executions delayed -- 12 August 2006
Indonesia: Six may soon be shot -- 10August 2006
Indonesia: Poso 3 facing imminent execution -- 16 May 2006

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Poso 3 may be shot tomorrow

If last-minute appeals fail, Indonesia will tomorrow kill three Christians convicted of leading attacks on Muslims in Central Sulawesi.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Dominggus da Silva, 42, and Marinus Riwu, 48, were sentenced to death in April 2001 for premeditated murder and inciting riots in the town of Poso. They were convicted of orchestrating sectarian violence in May 2000, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed.

Indonesia's national news agency Antara reported today that the men's lawyers had confirmed the execution date had been set for 21 September.

Antara said lawyer Roy Rening told Reuters: "Yesterday the prosecutors gave the letter of notice [to the three] for the execution to take place on Sept. 21."

BBC News said some reports suggested the executions could be carried out on Friday.

The three men were scheduled to be executed at 12.15am on 12 August, but they were granted a repreive with less than an hour to go. The government said it was delaying the executions until after Independence Day celebrations on 17 August.

The Associated Press reported that authorities in Poso had deployed thousands of police in the lead up to tomorrow's planned executions.

An AP report in the International Herald Tribune quoted Poso police chief Lt. Col. Rudy Sufahriyadi, who said police were "prepared to handle any reaction against the executions by deploying about 2,000 police, including a mobile brigade, a bomb squad and an anti-terror unit".

BBN News quoted Central Sulawesi police chief Badroddin Haiti who said: "If there are unwanted actions, or actions tending toward anarchy, police will not hesitate to take repressive action."

Few people have been charged and no-one else has been sentenced to death for involvement in the clashes between Christians and Muslims, which claimed an estimated 2,000 lives on Sulawesi between 1998 and 2001.

Amnesty International appeals
Human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) has expressed concerns that the men did not receive a fair trial.

AI said in a statement issued to AFP that it was "deeply disappointed" that Indonesia may proceed with the executions this week.

According to the Khaleej Times Online, the human rights organisation said: "It is shocking to hear that the executions are going ahead despite the high level of debate the case has sparked across the country about the use of the death penalty."

The statement added that AI "believes that the use of the death penalty is inherently an injustice and we urge the President of Indonesia to follow the recent moves in Southeast Asia for the abolition of the death penalty by granting clemency to the three men and all other prisoners currently sentenced to death in Indonesia".

Amnesty International Australia today issued an alert to members of its Anti-Death Penalty Network, calling on them to write urgent appeals to the Indonesian government.

Related stories:
Poso appeal may not have enough time -- 05 September, 2006
Indonesia: Poso executions delayed -- 12 August 2006
Indonesia: Six may soon be shot -- 10August 2006
Indonesia: Poso 3 facing imminent execution -- 16 May 2006

Friday, 15 September 2006

Indonesia: Catholic youth call for abolition

A national meeting of young Catholics in Indonesia has called for an end to the death penalty, according to The Jakarta Post.

Delegates to the 13th Catholic Youth National Congress in Ambon finished their 4-day meeting on Monday last week (4 Sept) with a call for the abolition of capital punishment.

They also said police should interview people accused of involvement in riots in Central Sulawesi in May 2000.

Three men are currently on death row for inciting the riots, but their defence lawyers claim they were prosecuted to cover up the true involvement of 16 other people.

MT Natalis Situmorang, youth movement chairman, said during the congress that its members "strongly object to the use of the death penalty against any person in this country".

Secretary general Cosmos Refra said: "We renounce the death penalty because God has given life to humans so that they can live freely, and only God has the right to take (life) back, not fellow humans."

He denied the position taken by the congress was motivated by political or sectarian concerns.

"In principle, we reject the use of the death penalty against all people, be they [Poso 3] Tibo and his friends or [convicted Bali bombers] Amrozi and Imam Samudra, as well as others sentenced to death," Cosmos Refra said.

Related stories:
Poso appeal may not have enough time -- 05 September, 2006
Indonesia: Poso executions delayed -- 12 August 2006
Indonesia: Six may soon be shot -- 10August 2006
Indonesia: Poso 3 facing imminent execution -- 16 May 2006

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Australia's double standards under pressure

There has been renewed criticism of the Australian government's double standards on the death penalty following last week's announcement of four more death sentences for Australians in Indonesia.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has indicated his support for particular executions in recent years. And John Howard and senior government ministers have expressed their satisfaction at death sentences given to Indonesians convicted of attacks on Australians and Australian interests.

In contrast, when Australians face execution in Asia, the government says it will appeal for clemency because the country doesn't support the death penalty.

Amnesty International Australia has asked its supporters to write to the Australian government and urge it to take a position of "clear and principled opposition to the death penalty in the Asia Pacific region".
Professor Tim Lindsey, a director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, wrote last week that the government's failure to actively oppose the death penalty in the region "has left us with low credibility when Australians face the ultimate penalty - the firing squad - in Indonesia.

"Our support for the execution of the Bali bombers has been widely noted in the region, and was raised by Singapore when Australia sought to save Nguyen Tuong Van from death on drug trafficking charges.

"Canberra should use what time is left in the case of the Bali nine to become internationally vocal on the death penalty, not just for Australians, but for anybody, including the Bali bombers, unpleasant though this will be, if it is to have more leverage in Indonesia to help its citizens."

Tim Lindsay concluded: "If we oppose the death penalty, we should do so universally and regardless of citizenship or crime."

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote in its editorial that "Australia's persuasiveness as an advocate [for its citizens on death row] has been compromised by its weakness and inconsistency as an opponent of capital punishment".

An editorial in The Age newspaper said the Australian government "waits until its own nationals have been condemned before speaking out".

"By then it is often too late, as was the case when Nguyen Tuong Van was executed in Singapore last year."

Dr Michael Fullilove from the Lowy Institute said last week that it was very difficult for Australia to argue against the execution of its citizens while supporting the execution of people such as the Bali bombers.

"It's difficult to discern a lot of consistency at the moment in the comments by the Government and other politicians about the execution of, for example, Bali bombers versus Bali drug traffickers and I think that inconsistency attracts adverse comment in the region. It makes us looks hypocritical.

"And I think the best position from which to petition foreign governments on behalf of our own people is that of consistent and strong opposition to the death penalty in all cases," Dr Fullilove said.

'Particularly distressing'
The Age also echoed earlier concerns about the involvement of the Australian Federal Police in providing information to Indonesian police that led to the arrest of the Bali Nine.

"The possible execution of all but one of the Bali Nine is particularly distressing because the Australian Federal Police assisted Indonesian authorities in their arrest. The Government has a duty to its citizens to ensure that its co-operation in international operations does not subject them to barbaric treatment."

Change needed
The Sydney Morning Herald's editorial said "Australia must establish itself as a clear opponent of the death penalty".

"It cannot equivocate as it has when, for example, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said he would not object to death penalties for the Bali bombers and would welcome the execution of Osama bin Laden.

"Having made its position firm, Australia must actively oppose capital punishment generally, not just when Australians are involved. Australia could profitably begin its diplomatic offensive in our region in concert with Asian countries of like mind," the SMH said.

"By working for the abolition of the death sentence everywhere, Australia will make itself a more credible advocate for Australians anywhere.

Singapore hanging
Debate about the Australian government's inconsistent record on the death penalty, and the community's attitudes towards the issue, peaked late last year with the execution of Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore.

On Human Rights Day, eight days after Van Nguyen's execution, Amnesty International Australia condemned the government's support for particular death sentences, which it said had "seriously undermined" efforts to argue for clemency.

"Australia cannot support the death penalty when it is convenient and then argue that Australian citizens should be the only people spared execution," Amnesty International said.

"Australia should take a principled stance against the death penalty and not be afraid to express its views throughout the region. It is not unrealistic to expect Australia to take a strong and unapologetic position on such a cruel and inhuman punishment."

Related stories:
Firing squad for six of Bali Nine -- 11 September, 2006
Bali 9 death sentence confirmed -- 26 April, 2006

Monday, 11 September 2006

Firing squad for six of Bali Nine

Four more Australians are now on death row in Indonesia, following Supreme Court appeal decisions overturning their prison sentences for heroin trafficking.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Wednesday last week that Indonesia's Supreme Court had given the death penalty to Scott Rush, 20, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, 23, Si Yi Chen, 21, and Matthew Norman, 19.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Mark Forbes discovered the verdicts after conducting a search of court records. The men, their lawyers and families had not been informed of the decision, and the newspaper report caught the Australian government by surprise.

It took an extraordinary day of confusion and urgent meetings on Wednesday before Supreme Court judge Iskandar Kamil and Australian diplomats confirmed the sentences.

While it was always a possibility the sentences could be increased on appeal, the decision was something of a shock because prosecutors had not requested the death penalty. Instead they had asked for the reinstatement of the life sentences given to Nguyen, Chen and Norman in February 2006, which were later reduced to 20 years' imprisonment on appeal to the Denpasar District Court.

Scott Rush had appealed to the Supreme Court against his February 2006 sentence of life imprisonment.

The men were part of the "Bali Nine", a group of Australians arrested on the island in April 2005 and later charged with trying to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin to Australia.

Judge Iskandar Kamil said: "This is a serious case; the amount [of heroin] is quite large. Heavy crimes must be paid with similar punishment."

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he understood the judges "thought that the Bali High Court and the Denpasar District Court have been too forgiving".

The court also confirmed the death sentences imposed on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for allegedly organising the failed Bali Nine operation.

Renae Lawrence, the only female of the group, had not appealed against her 20 year sentence.

Different judge, different fate
In contrast to the six death sentences, a hastily convened meeting of Supreme Court judges on Wednesday gave life sentences to Bali Nine members Martin Stephens and Michael Czugaj.

The appeals from Stephens and Czugaj were heard by a different panel of judges.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Muhammad Taufik, the judge who presided over the appeals from Stephens and Czugaj said he ordered life imprisonment as "we believe a life sentence is enough for their role as couriers with no part in organising it".

Another Herald story said Muhammad Taufik told reporters: "We do not see any reason for death penalties in these cases because we see they only followed orders and received payment; they were not the brains or the drug bosses."

Australia to appeal
Legal teams for the six facing execution are now examining possible grounds for a judicial review, which usually involves a claim of new evidence or legal error in earlier judgements.

Alexander Downer said the Australian government would give its support "at the appropriate time" to any applications for clemency from Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said: "I don't think people should entertain too many optimistic thoughts because it's difficult, but we will try hard and we will put the case against the death penalty."

On Friday, John Howard said that if death sentences were still in place after all avenues of appeal had been exhausted, "I will speak to President Yudhoyono and argue very strongly, as I did to the Prime Minister of Singapore some months ago in relation to Van Nguyen, because we don't believe in the death penalty."

President Yudhoyono has never granted clemency in a capital case involving drugs.

Colin McDonald QC, the Australian lawyer representing Scott Rush, said: "If you're a betting person you wouldn't be banking on any clemency."

"Don't bury us"
Reporters said members of the Bali Nine, held in Bali's Kerobokan prison, were trying to absorb the shock, first at the conflicting reports of the court's decision and then at the news that the verdicts had been confirmed.

When he heard the news, Scott Rush told the Sydney Morning Herald: "This is making my head spin. I am sitting on death, am I?

"At first I didn't want to appeal because of this sort of thing. I was scared and me and my parents were stressed.

"But everyone said no Australians would be put to death, and now I am on death row," Rush said.

"If there is anything people can do to prevent this please make it happen because I need a second chance at life...

"Don't bury us before we are dead," he said.

In another Herald story, Rush said: "I have been learning a lot of things here [in prison]. I have been cleaning myself up. I wanted to get a degree but now I think I won't get my second chance."

Related story:
Bali 9 death sentence confirmed -- 26 April, 2006

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Poso appeal may not have enough time

Three Catholics on death row in Indonesia have lodged another appeal for clemency, but it may not be able to stop their execution.

An Indonesian government minister last week confirmed he had received an application from the three men.

But he said they were unlikely to be granted presidential clemency because the application had come too soon after their first appeal was rejected.

According to an AP story published in The Jakarta Post, State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra said: "I have received their appeal ... and will give it to the justice and human rights minister for consideration.

"But as far as I know, the law stipulates that a prisoner must wait two years to submit a new request for a presidential pardon."

Their first application was rejected by the President on 10 November 2005, just nine months ago.

Three 'will still die'
Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were sentenced to death in April 2001, following violence between Christian and Muslim communities in Central Sulawesi in May 2000.

Their execution, planned for early on 12 August, was delayed at the last minute until after Indonesia's Independence Day celebrations on 17 August.

The head of the Police reiterated earlier government statements that the men would eventually be executed in accordance with the court's decision.

"It is only a matter of time. The court has decided that the execution should be carried out," National Police Chief Gen Sutanto told the Indonesian national news agency Antara News.

He said the timing of the executions would be set by the regional police chief and regional prosecutor's office.

Catholic appeal
Leaders and members of Indonesia's Catholic Church have issued a statement calling for the three to be spared and for investigations into the "real masterminds and perpetrators" of the riots.

The statement was issued on 25 August in Denpasar, Bali, during a pastoral meeting of dioceses from the Nusa Tenggara region.

The Indian Catholic reports the statement was signed by 7 bishops, 1 diocesan administrator, 47 priests, 60 laypeople and 15 members of the meeting's organising committee.

The statement said the men should not be executed "because there are many serious questions ... about the charges against them as the masterminds of the Poso riots".

It said that, according to the Christian faith, "the gift of life is the highest gift God gives to His creatures", and God has the power over life and death, not the state.

"We reject the death penalty in this country. Moreover, our country has ratified the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which approves and upholds each person's right to life."

Christian leaders have yet to make a similar high-profile appeal for the lives of at least 19 other people who are facing imminent execution in Indonesia for drug and terrorist offences.

Related stories:
Indonesia: Poso executions delayed – 12 August 2006
Indonesia: Six may soon be shot -- 10August 2006
Indonesia: Poso 3 facing imminent execution -- 16 May 2006

Monday, 4 September 2006

Call to action on 10 October

People across Asia are encouraged to get involved in the fourth World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October.

We are encouraging participation in 2006 by Asian organisations and individuals, including those concerned with criminal justice, human rights and effective responses to crime.

This year's theme is "The Death Penalty: a Failure of Justice", highlighting the many failures of death penalty systems, from the execution of innocent people to discrimination and unfair trials.

Organisers expect hundreds of events will be held on all five continents, raising public awareness that "the death penalty is not justice".

For World Day 2005, more than 260 events were organised in 46 countries, and 42,300 people signed an international petition calling on African heads of state to abolish the death penalty.

Materials available
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has produced a grassroots mobilisation kit for activists, including suggestions for activities you can organise, as well as sample letters and petitions for five people who have been sentenced to death or executed.

The five cases, illustrating different failures of justice, are from China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iran and the United States of America.

The activist kit, posters and graphics can be downloaded from the World Coalition's website.

If you organise an event for the World Day, please notify the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty so they can include the details on their website.

Cities for Life
Following the World Day, the Rome-based Community of Sant' Egidio is organising the international Cities for Life event from 28-30 November.

Over these three days, cities and towns around the world will light up their public buildings, or other places that symbolically represent the city, to affirm the value of life and show their opposition to the death penalty.

For more information about Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty, see the Sant' Egidio website.

Friday, 1 September 2006

Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore

Nigeria's parliament has refused to intervene in the case of a 19 year old man who may soon be hanged for heroin trafficking in Singapore.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, from Nigeria, was arrested at Changi Airport on 27 November 2004 allegedly in possession of heroin. He was sentenced to death along with Okele Nelson Malachy, 33, whose nationality cannot be confirmed.

AND West Africa news agency reports that Rep Abdul Oroh, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights, moved a motion calling on the parliament to intervene in the case.

According to the AND West Africa report, Abdul Oroh urged the parliament to persuade President Olusegun Obasanjo to make a personal appeal for clemency to his Singaporean counterpart.

He said Iwuchukwu should be spared on the grounds that he was only 18 years old when he was arrested and this was his first offence.

Speakers against the motion argued that he had damaged Nigeria's image and should face the consequences of his crime.

The motion was defeated when a majority of parliamentary members voiced their opposition.

Amnesty International is continuing to campaign for clemency for the two men, and encouraging people to take part in its letter-writing action.

Australian citizen Van Tuong Nguyen was executed in Singapore on 2 December 2005, despite repeated appeals for clemency from the Australian government.

Related story:
Singapore forum against death penalty