Monday, 1 February 2010

Indonesia: Legal doubts delay executions

Indonesian Executions Stalled as Judicial-Review Question Languishes Unanswered
From The Jakarta Globe, 31 January, 2010
By Heru Andriyanto

The absence of executions in 2009 was the result not of an intentional moratorium but because the Supreme Court has failed to provide a specific timeframe within which death row inmates are allowed to request a judicial review, the Attorney General’s Office said.

The AGO last year proposed that the top court issue a ruling to limit the period, to prevent inmates from buying time. But Supreme Court Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa sent the request back to the AGO to let prosecutors decide, with a suggestion that the period be restricted to 180 days.

"There is no ruling from the Supreme Court that provides us legal standing to execute inmates who have yet to take a stance [on whether to ask for a judicial review] within a certain period," AGO spokesman Didiek Darmanto said.

Inmate Gunawan Santosa has exploited the weak point. The Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence for Gunawan for hiring Navy officers to kill his father-in-law. Gunawan has notified the AGO he would ask for a judicial review, but has continuously delayed doing so.

"Why should he hurry? There is no law that limits our time to ask for a judicial review so we take our time," said Alamsjah Hanafiah, Gunawan’s lawyer.

Under Indonesian law, after a Supreme Court has rejected an appeal, the death row inmate has two possible extraordinary measures to escape the death sentence — judicial review and presidential pardon.

Requesting a judicial review by the Supreme Court requires the inmate to provide new evidence supporting his innocence. Asking for a presidential pardon must be preceded by an admission to the crime.

Alamsjah said he would refer to the case of Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, who also hired someone to murder a Supreme Court judge but was sentenced to just 15 years in prison.

"Many death row inmates don’t use their rights to extraordinary legal options, but at the last minute might request presidential clemency or a judicial review," Didiek said.

"In addition, carrying out the death sentence costs us a huge amount of money," he said.

Last year’s execution hiatus was a sharp contrast to 2008, when the AGO ordered the execution of 10 inmates — a record in the post-Suharto era.

The flurry of executions started after a humiliating bribery scandal rocked the AGO in March 2008. Prosecutor Urip Tri Gunawan was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

International human rights group Amnesty International noted that the executions in 2008 totaled only one less than the 11 recorded in the "entire preceding decade."

Amnesty International strongly criticized Indonesia for voting against a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

According to the AGO, the country has 107 inmates on death row. Including Gunawan, six have been declared ready to face the firing squad.

The five others include drug trafficker Meirika Franola and convicted murderers Bahar bin Matsar, Jurit bin Abdullah, Ibrahim bin Ujang and Suryadi Swabhuana.

The AGO also said six death-row inmates — Irwan Sadawa Hia, Taroni Hia, Dody Marshal, Jufry, alias Muh Dahri, Imran Sinaga and Rambe Hadipah Paulus Purba — had escaped from prison and were at large.

Although no inmate was put to death in 2009, the number of inmates on death row has fallen from 112 last year. Two condemned inmates, Banged Siahaan and Edith Yunita Sianturi, died of natural causes while in custody, and three other inmates had their death sentences commuted to life in prison by the Supreme Court following judicial reviews.

The three were Australian nationals Matthew Norman, Thanh Duc Tan Nguyen and Si Yi Chen, members of the so-called Bali Nine. They were arrested in April 2005 for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali.

"The death sentence is cruel and inhuman. It fails as a deterrent so we need to take a lesson from other countries who have abolished capital punishment but at the same time successfully reduced crime and corruption," said Usman Hamid, the chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), a human rights group.

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