Thursday, March 27, 2014

1) Contenders asked to outline views on human rights

1) Contenders asked to outline  views on human rights

2) Amnesty Criticizes Indonesia for ‘Secretive’ Resumption of Executions

1) Contenders asked to outline  views on human rights
Margareth S. Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Election Watch | Thu, March 27 2014, 9:46 AM
The New York-based international NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has distributed questionnaires to all contenders in Indonesia’s presidential election, slated for July 9, in its attempt to highlight the candidates’ commitment to mending the nation’s human rights record.  

HRW’s Andreas Harsono told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the presidential hopefuls were asked to outline their views regarding religious minorities, women’s rights, judicial reform, asylum seekers and the security and political situation in Papua. 

“We want to help provide comprehensive information for eligible voters. They must know who they are voting for to get a picture of what the country will look like when one of the candidates is elected president,” Andreas said. 

“This survey doesn’t aim to judge any of those who have been officially nominated or those who will be potentially nominated. We just forwarded them the questions and will announce the answers to the public in June. It’s up to eligible voters to make the decision [in the presidential election],” he added. 

HRW’s move came after the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) refused to assess the human rights records of presidential hopefuls, saying it was not mandated to do so. 

According to Andreas, HRW has distributed a questionnaire to Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the Golkar Party presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie, the Gerindra Party’s presidential candiate Prabowo Subianto, the Hanura Party’s presidential candidate Wiranto and the so-called “king of dangdut” Rhoma Irama, who is rumored to be a potential candidate representing the National Awakening Party (PKB). 

HRW has distributed a similar questionnaire to political parties that have yet to make a decision on their presidential nomination, such as the Democratic Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN). 

In terms of religious freedom, the questionnaire asks what the presidential hopefuls will do to protect religious minorities who have suffered intimidation for years. It specifically highlights candidates’ commitment to improving the situation in areas where religious violence is rampant, such as Aceh, Banten, East Java, West Java and West Sumatra.  

HRW also asks hopefuls to elaborate on their plans, if elected president, to uphold human rights in relation to several other issues, such as whether they will comply with the recommendation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to allow foreign journalists to enter Papua and whether to release political prisoners in the country’s resource-rich province. 

In the UN’s quadrennial Universal Periodic Review in May 2012, the UNHRC requested Indonesia to allow foreign journalists into Papua and also release Papuan political detainees, including Filep Karma, who was arrested for helping to raise a flag representing the Papuan separatist movement in December 2004. 

During the review session in 2012, the UNHRC also requested the Indonesian government to amend or revoke laws and regulations that banned religious freedom, including the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the 1969 and 2006 ministerial decrees on the construction of places of worship and the 2008 joint ministerial decree on the Ahmadiyah. 

HRW expects to receive responses between May 16 and early June and publish them a month before the presidential election. 

“Indonesia’s next president will inherit serious human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment,” Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement. 

“Indonesian voters should insist that presidential candidates make explicit their plans to promote and strengthen human rights in the country.”


2) Amnesty Criticizes Indonesia for ‘Secretive’ Resumption of Executions

Jakarta. Indonesia resumed executing death-row inmates in 2013 after a four-year moratorium, killing five people by firing squad in a “new secretive trend,” a report by Amnesty International says.
“Indonesia took a serious step backward on human rights last year by resuming executions,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Capital punishment is open to Indonesian judges as a sentencing option for several convictions, including drug trafficking, murder, sedition and terrorism. The sentence is carried out by firing squad. The law says an inmate must be informed of their execution 72 hours before it is carried out. They are then taken to a location near their prison, often a beach or a field, and offered the choice of whether they would like to be blindfolded.
The military firing squad contains men with live rounds and men with blank rounds, which is designed to ease the psychological burden on the soldiers. If the condemned person survives the volley from the firing squad, they will be shot point blank in the head.

National regression
Laos, Myanmar and Thailand conducted no executions in 2013. In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), only Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam carried out executions. 
Indonesia joined Kuwait, Nigeria and Vietnam as countries that resumed executions in 2013. More than 16 capital sentences were handed down by Indonesian judges in 2013, while Singapore — previously a keen executioner — commuted six death sentences last year following a central review on the death penalty announced by the government in 2012.
On March 14, 2013 Indonesia executed Adami Wilson — a Malawi national convicted of drug trafficking — in Pulau Seribu, ending the four-year hiatus. Suryadi Swabuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang were then executed in May for their murder convictions.

In November, 2013 Amnesty criticized Indonesia for a “shocking new trend of secrecy” after 44-year-old Pakistani citizen Muhammad Abdul Hafeez was killed by firing squad early on the morning of Nov. 17. Hafeez was arrested at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on June 26, 2001 with 900 grams of heroin and sentenced to die by the Tangerang District Court on Nov. 28, 2001.
None of these executions was announced beforehand, Amnesty said.

Good politics?
“If this was a populist ploy by the government to shore up support, it is a shocking way to play with people’s lives,” Bennett said.
Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said it was unclear whether there was a central-government policy to resume executions on the quiet ahead of an election year.
“We don’t know the answer, but [executing people for drug offenses] is popular in Indonesia,” Andreas said, adding that the Indonesian government practically publicized the killings of the three of the Bali bombers in 2008 — the last people to be executed before the moratorium began — ahead of elections the following year.
A spokesman for the president declined to comment when contacted by the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday afternoon. The office of the Justice and Human Rights minister could not be reached by deadline.

A matter of regret
The 2013 “Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Indonesia“ report by the UN Human Rights Committee expressed “regret” that Indonesia had resumed executions, and said Jakarta should “consider commuting all sentences of death imposed on persons convicted for drug crimes.”
Amnesty, while an opponent of the death penalty in all circumstances, emphasizes in its report that Indonesia’s willingness to execute drug convicts is egregious, citing Article 6 of the UN covenant which stipulates that drug offenses do not fall under the category of the “most serious crimes.”
On March 5, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi-judicial monitoring body for the United Nations’ drug conventions which has historically balked at taking a firm position on capital punishment for drug crimes, urged member states to think about doing away with the death penalty.
“Member states are encouraged to consider abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offenses,” INCB president Raymond Yans said in a press release.

Indonesia’s closest neighbor has made progress on this front, the report says. Singapore did not kill anyone in 2013, but Andreas said it would not be as easy for Indonesia to take similarly decisive action, even if there were a solid commitment to halting the death penalty for drug trafficking.
“This is a huge question but as long as the death penalty is on the books, you cannot stop judges from using it,” Andreas said. “You can delay it, but you cannot stop it. The revision of the Criminal Code took 30 years.”
While Indonesia resumed killing drug and homicide convicts in 2013, the government in Jakarta continued to expend political capital on trying to save its own citizens from facing the executioner abroad.
Two cases have received particularly widespread publicity — Wilfrida Soik in Malaysia, and Satinah Binti Jumati Ahmad in Saudi Arabia. Both women were domestic workers who face execution for murdering their employers. Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has taken Wilfrida’s case under his wing, even flying to Malaysia to advocate on her behalf, while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said today that Jakarta would continue to lobby the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to spare Satinah.
“Saving migrant workers is a popular issue,” Andreas said, but putting drug offenders to death was also a vote winner, he added.

Yudhoyono clarified the Indonesian stance on its advocacy abroad, saying on Wednesday that “our people have difficultly differentiating between migrant workers who have problems abroad because of their own mistakes and those who don’t… but many of] those who are sentenced to death are [found guilty] of murder, of murder during a robbery and of serious drug violations.”
For death-penalty campaigners, this sort of rhetoric comes as a disappointment.
“Jakarta has the potential to be a real leader on rights in Southeast Asia,” Amnesty’s regional director Bennett said, “making this regressive move all the more disappointing.”

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