The Jakarta Post’s Dylan Amirio spoke to the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, on the issue on the sidelines of the third Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue.
The Jakarta Post | World | Wed, November 12 2014, 11:04 AM
Indonesia’s stance on the death penalty remains vague. In 2013, the state executed five inmates for reasons ranging from drug smuggling to murder. Indonesia has also abstained from voting on a 2012 UN Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty. The Jakarta Post’s Dylan Amirio spoke to the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, on the issue on the sidelines of the third Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue.
Question: What do you say about Indonesia’s stance on capital punishment, mainly on the death penalty?
Answer: I know that Indonesia had a moratorium on the death penalty [in 2008] before it was broken when several people were executed in 2013. And I also know that Indonesia took a leadership role against the death penalty, going from voting against the 2012 UN Death Penalty moratorium, to abstaining from voting on it.
This month there will be a new vote and I look forward to see Indonesia’s continued leadership on this resolution.
I also hope that civic societies will continue discussing this issue for Indonesian society with as many people as possible. Those who have not been convinced need to be involved in the discussion as well.
You mentioned that one of the reasons to abolish the death penalty was due to upholding personal and national self-dignity. Could you say that Indonesia retained its dignity as a nation during the 2013 executions?
I believe that every state has their dignity to protect and it can be even more strongly retained if it is able to do so without executing anyone.
In many instances the punishment socially discriminates against those who are already marginalized and poor, as it is deeply unfair for someone who is unable to afford a good defense in order to prove doubts, especially in a case like death.
The death penalty, in any country, only comes into discussion when the person or people who are about to be executed committed a very heinous crime. In some countries it could be terrorists and in others it may be rapists or child murderers.
It all comes down to what the state wants to achieve with the death penalty. Does it want to achieve deterrence so that fewer people would commit similar crimes?
If prevention is the goal, then they must also consider the worldwide scientific analysis that says that the punishment is an ineffective deterrence method.
There is still a lot of support for the death penalty in Indonesia, especially for those involved in corruption cases. What do you say is the most effective alternative method of prevention in order to stop such crimes from happening again, if death is ruled out?
Before thinking about imposing the death penalty, a state must consider having effective alternative punishments that both the criminals and public opinion can understand as being more important than death.
For one, life in prison is already a very strong penalty for these crimes.
It is also very wrong to assume that the role of a leader is to only follow public opinion and it is a big mistake to assume that public opinion never changes. Opinions can change if a leader can be inspirational in guiding the country through such an issue, which could result in the people realizing their own dignity as citizens.
Indonesia’s principal position until 2013 was clearly the right way to go and it clearly placed the country in the front lines of this serious human rights debate. Retaining Indonesia’s leadership is something I look forward to, as working with Indonesia in the past resulted in increasing the protection of human rights. And I believe this will be the case in the future as well.