Developments within the last few years

Indonesia’s developments in recent years were initially hopeful: Between 2009 and 2012, not a single execution was carried out, and President Widodo’s public statements before taking office also raised hopes of a positive development.

However, this changed abruptly when he took office and the first eight people were executed by firing squad just three months later. By the summer of 2015, 14 executions had already taken place under Widodo’s presidency. Twelve of those executed were foreign nationals.

Amnesty International estimates that at least 46 death sentences were handed down during 2015, as well as over a hundred other inmates on Indonesian death row. The majority of the death sentences are believed to have been imposed for murder or drug offenses, and in two cases for terrorist offenses. In 2016, a total of four people were reportedly executed and at least 60 death sentences were handed down, according to Amnesty International. More positive results were seen in 2017, 2018, and 2019, when death sentences continued to be handed down but none were carried out.

Using the death penalty as a deterrent in the fight against illicit drug trafficking continued to manifest itself in the minds of the Indonesian government as 2016 began. For example, on March 20, Global Indonesian Voices announced the execution of an additional five people for drug offenses. The death penalty for drug offenses has been heavily criticized by the public as well as international human rights organizations.

Serious deficiencies within judicial procedures

Shocking in addition to the president’s ignorance of international law and the use of the death penalty itself are the serious deficiencies within Indonesia’s judicial system and prosecution procedures. This has also met with strong criticism from human rights organizations, and Amnesty International investigated a group of prisoners sentenced to death, their sentencing and prosecution procedures: The prisoners reported torture and abuse as well as forced confessions through brutal beatings by the police and even death threats.

According to Amnesty International ‘s “Flawed Justice” report, detainees are often denied any legal counsel, leaving them unable to prepare for or defend themselves adequately against charges and trials. Foreign nationals, who make up a large percentage of those sentenced to death, particularly for drug offenses, are not even provided with interpreters.

Execution method

The usual method of execution in Indonesia is death by firing squad. Detainees are not informed of their execution until 72 hours before it takes place.

At the time of execution, the prisoner decides whether to sit or stand and whether his eyes should be covered by a hood or blindfold. The firing squad consists of 12 men, three of whom have a loaded rifle and the other nine have rifles without ammunition. The prisoner is shot from a distance of 5 to 9 meters.

Executions may not take place in public, according to the law. As a rule, executions take place on the island of Nusakambangan, where all those sentenced to death are also imprisoned. The “execution island,” as it is known within Indonesia, is home to a total of seven prisons for various offenders sentenced to five or more years in prison or to death. Poisonous snakes, mainly cobras, are used to further prevent escape attempts by prisoners on the already highly secured island, which is only accessible by boat crossing. As of May 2016, there were reportedly about 1250 prisoners on the island, including nearly 60 sentenced to death.

Crimes and offenses punishable by death

Murder; robbery resulting in death or serious physical injury; extortion resulting in death or serious physical injury; piracy resulting in death; terrorist attacks, activities, or plans; and drug trafficking, production, or smuggling; corruption; espionage; treason; and military attacks are all crimes punishable by death in Indonesia, according to the law.

In May 2016, President Widodo announced that rape would also be punishable by death in the future in order to curb sexual crimes committed against women and also children, and passed a new law to this effect. Sexual crimes are widespread in Indonesia, with 35 acts of sexual violence reported to the authorities every day.

Sources and further information:

“Amnesty Report on the Death Penalty 2018″/ “Amnesty Report on the Death Penalty 2019” by Amnesty International; “Flawed Justice: Unfair trials and the death penalty in Indonesia,” Amnesty International Annual Report 2015; Death Penalty Report 2015, AI; “Death Penalty Execution for Drug-Related Convicts to Continue This Year” Global Indonesian Voices, 20. March 2016; “A look at Nusakambanga, Indonesia ́s execution island,” The Jakarta Post, May 6, 2016; “Joko Widodo supports call for chemical castration, death penalty for rape offenders “, ABC News, May 11, 2016, Indonesia: New law provides death penalty and castration for sex offenders, News Initiative-against-the-death-penalty, May 26, 2016

As of May 2020