JAKARTA, Indonesia (UPDATED) – Indonesia put to death 5 foreigners and one local woman convicted of drugs offenses on Sunday, January 18, unleashing a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands condemned the execution of their citizens and recalled their respective ambassadors.
The executions – the first under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo – were carried out by firing squad on foreigners hailing from Brazil, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malawi and Nigeria.
Indonesia has tough anti-drugs laws and Jokowi, who took office in October, has disappointed rights activists by voicing strong support for capital punishment despite his image as a reformist.
A spokesman for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was “distressed and outraged” after Indonesia defied her repeated pleas and put to death Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, who was convicted of smuggling cocaine into Indonesia in 2004.
“Using the death penalty, which is increasingly rejected by the international community, seriously affects relations between our countries,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The Brazilian ambassador to Jakarta was being recalled for consultations, the spokesman added.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retro Marsudi confirmed in an SMS to Rappler that she had received the notice from the Brazilian embassy.
Meanwhile Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the Netherlands had temporarily recalled its ambassador to Indonesia over the execution of Dutchman Ang Kiem Soei, and described all six deaths as “terribly sad” in a statement.
“My heart goes out to their families, for whom this marks a dramatic end to years of uncertainty,” Koenders said. “The Netherlands remains opposed to the death penalty.”
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte had been in contact with the Indonesian president on the matter, he said, and the government had done “all in its power” to attempt to halt the execution.
Both Brazil and the Netherlands have abolished the death penalty.
In line with law
Indonesia’s attorney general, H.M Prasetyo, said Sunday the death penalty was not “something pleasing or fun” but insisted the executions had been carried out in accordance with the law. (READ: Indonesia to execute 6 drug convicts on Jan. 18)
“I hope everyone can understand this,” he told reporters.
“Indonesia must be saved from narcotics… this is a crime against humanity that damages the morals of the younger generation.”
He also insisted the death penalty was a “positive law for Indonesia”.
The 53-year-old Brazilian, who was caught with drugs stashed in the frame of his paraglider at Jakarta airport, and the 62-year-old Dutchman were executed on Nusakambangan Island, home to a high-security prison, off the main island of Java.
A Nigerian, Daniel Enemuo; Namaona Denis, from Malawi; and an Indonesian woman, Rani Andriani, were executed at the same location.
The 6th convict, Vietnamese woman Tran Thi Bich Hanh, was executed in the Boyolali district in central Java.
No presidential pardons
They were all caught attempting to smuggle drugs apart from the Dutchman, who was sentenced to death for operating a huge factory producing ecstasy.
All of them had their appeals for clemency to the president – their last chance to avoid the firing squad – rejected last month.
Jakarta halted capital punishment in 2008 but resumed executions again in 2013. There were no executions in Indonesia last year.
Jokowi has taken a particularly hard line towards people on death row for narcotics offenses, repeatedly saying the country is in a state of emergency with regard to drug abuse, as there are about 4.5 million drug users in Indonesia, 1.2 million of whom are beyond the point of rehabilitation. He also says 40 to 50 young people die every day in the country due to drug abuse, according to state news agency Antara.
As a result, Jokowi has said he would reject the clemency appeals of the 64 drug convicts on death row. There are a total of 138 people on death row in Indonesia. (READ: Why Jokowi ordered the execution of drug traffickers)
“It is deeply disturbing that drug convicts are at risk of execution. Drug-related offences do not match the standards set out in international law, which only allow the death penalty for the ‘most serious crimes’,” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement on December 5.
Jokowi’s tough stance has also sparked concern for other foreigners sentenced to death, particularly two Australians who were part of the “Bali Nine” group caught trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005.
One of the pair, Myuran Sukumaran, also had his clemency appeal rejected last month but authorities say he will be executed with the second Australian – his accomplice Andrew Chan – as they committed their crime together. (READ: Australia urges Indonesia to spare smuggler facing execution)
Chan is still waiting for the outcome of his clemency appeal.
Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Sunday’s executions marked “a seriously regressive move and a very sad day.
“The new administration has taken office on the back of promises to make human rights a priority, but the execution of six people flies in the face of these commitments.”
He called on the government to halt plans for future executions. Authorities previously said that 20 were scheduled for this year.
Before the executions, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had sought to ramp up pressure on Jakarta, describing the death penalty as “a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity”. – with a report from Muna Su’ud/Rappler.com