Joko Widodo defends death penalty as ‘positive’ for Indonesia

    Indonesian president says it was his duty to carry out executions as calls surface for foreign aid to be linked with human rights in Asia Pacific region

    Bridie Jabour and agencies
    Sunday 10 May 2015 03.20 BST

    Indonesia’s president has declared the death penalty is “positive” for the country after seven foreign drug smugglers, including two Australians, were executed.

    Joko Widodo defended the executions as Australia’s human rights commissioner, Gillian Triggs, suggested foreign aid should be more directly linked to improving the human rights records of countries in the region.

    Widodo said “the death penalty is our positive law”, in an interview with reporters on Saturday in Abepura.

    “My duty as president of Indonesia is to carry out the law and I’m sure other countries will understand this,” he said.

    “Every day 50 young Indonesians die; in one year that is 18,000 dead. I hope they understand about that.”

    Australia withdrew the ambassador to Indonesia for “consultations” after the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last month along with six others: Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin.

    Widodo refused to grant the pair clemency and has insisted the sovereignty of Indonesia must be respected by Australia.

    Triggs has criticised the executions saying the death penalty was becoming an “increasingly cruel and out-of-place” practice.

    “That the execution of those trafficking in drugs is contrary to international law is strongly arguable. Moreover, to execute drug traffickers who have been rehabilitated fails to respect their human dignity and inherent right to life,” she wrote in a column for Fairfax Media.

    “The death sentence also creates an unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person and the evidence indicates that it is not an effective deterrent to serious crimes.”

    Triggs called for the bipartisan work done to try to get clemency for Chan and Sukumaran to be channelled into achieving a moratorium on the death penalty in the Asia Pacific.

    She called for the issue to be raised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in November, saying it is time for Chogm to confirm its 2012 commitment to the inherent right to life in the commonwealth’s charter of human rights.

    “Australia could link our aid programs in the region more directly to improving human rights and governance according to the rule of law,” she said.

    “We could also expand our bilateral human rights dialogues with China and Vietnam to other nations within the Asia Pacific.”

    She said a moratorium could be the first step towards ending the death penalty globally.

    Sukumaran’s funeral was held on Saturday, a day after Chan’s, with him remembered as a kind person by Ivar Schou, a volunteer at Kerobokan prison.

    “Until the end, under very difficult circumstances, in prison for 10 years, he was helping and comforting all others in Kerobokan prison in Bali,” Schou said, adding he would work to abolish the death penalty. “I miss you so much, my friend.”