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Indonesia moves forward with imminent executions against global condemnation

Serge Atlaoui faces the death penalty in Indonesia over drug charges.
Serge Atlaoui faces the death penalty in Indonesia over drug charges. GACAD/AFP

Indonesia has signalled that the execution of 10 inmates on death row over drug charges is quickly approaching, sparking outrage from political leaders and activists as spread out as Paris and Jakarta. 


On Friday, embassy officials from nine countries received a text message alerting them to travel to the maximum-security prison on the Island of Nusa Kambangan, off the southern coast of Java, the following day – possibly to receive the legally required 72-hour notice of the executions.

The prisoners facing execution by firing squad include Frenchman Serge Atlaoui for his accused role in a clandestine ecstasy lab near Jakarta, as well as people from Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, the Philippines and Australia.

Rapheal Chenuil-Hazan, vice-president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, told RFI that the manner in which Indonesian officials are treating both the inmates and the diplomats who support them is shocking.

“Serge Atlaoui hasn’t been informed yet about his situation, and nor does the French embassy in Jakarta have any information,” Chenuil-Hazan said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the executions were “only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time,” he said on Tuesday through the state-owned news agency Antara.

Despite a flurry of last minute appeals and back-door diplomacy, Papang Hidayat, a researcher on Indonesia for Amnesty International, told RFI that the government is trying to appear tough amidst what they call a “drug emergency”.

“It seems that the new administration under President Joko Widodo wants to show that Indonesian authorities are being tough against what he calls one of the most serious crimes in the country,” saidHidayat.

As a result, the government has heeded all calls for clemency from international leaders continuing to give strong warnings to Indonesia that ties could be damaged if the executions take place.

President Widodo said back in December that no convicted drug offenders could be let off because of the perceived damage in Indonesia caused by the drug trade.

However, Hidayat, from Amnesty, says scholars have criticised the drug-prevalence data used by the government to justify such sentences.

A report from the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency, also known as BNN, asserted that drug use claimed the lives of roughly 50 people per day. However, critics said that the report did not use actual data from reliable sources, such as police and hospital officials, but rather used projected data.

Indonesian activists have also criticised an alleged double standard at play.

Indri Saptaningrum, the executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy in Jakarta, told RFI that Indonesia has been pushing to prevent the execution of more than 100 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

But with Indonesia rejecting calls for clemency of foreign nationals, Saptaningrum says this has raised fear amongst the public that it will be more difficult for Indonesian officials to negotiate the threatened lives of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

“How can you negotiate with them", she says, "while in your home country you also shoot people?”

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