INDONESIA: NOT ALONE IN DEATH PENALTY RETICENCE
|President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
October 16, 2012: Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's recent decision to overturn the death sentence handed down to a drug convict is part of a wider push away from capital punishment, ministers said.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that many countries are imposing lengthy prison terms rather than death sentences for serious cases, even if the death penalty is still in place, as it is in Indonesia.
He said the Indonesian government is also moving in this direction, noting his own ministry's ongoing campaign to have the sentences of Indonesians on death row in other countries commuted on humanitarian grounds.
"The policy of commuting a death sentence for a drug crime is not something that happens just in Indonesia," he said. "This policy is also practiced in other countries, and Indonesians are among the beneficiaries of such clemency."
The minister's statement follows public criticism of the president's decision earlier this month to commute the death sentence of Deni Setia Maharwa, a convicted drug mule, to life in prison.
Politicians and anti-narcotics activists condemned the move as undermining the fight against drugs, while the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) questioned the Yudhoyono administration's commitment to the campaign.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin, who had previously justified the clemency for Deni on the grounds that he was a drug mule and not a trafficker, said the government would never grant clemency to traffickers or producers.
"As soon as one of these people files a request for clemency, it will be turned down immediately," he said, adding that between 2004 and 2011, there had been 128 requests for clemency submitted to the president by drug convicts, of which 109 were rejected.
"The 19 requests that were granted included 10 for juvenile offenders facing 2 to 4 years and 1 was for a blind person facing 15 years, and they all received sentence cuts," Amir said.
"Only 4 requests were granted for convicts sentenced to death. They included three Indonesians and one foreign national, and in all those cases they were drug couriers, not traffickers."
He cited Deni as one of those who received clemency, saying the considerations for his sentence being commuted included the fact that he agreed to transport 3.5 kilograms of heroin to London only in order to be able to pay off a car loan and support his family. (Source: The Irrawaddy, 17/10/2012)