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August 23 2010 | INDONESIA


Unofficial freeze on death penalty for almost two years

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The Age

Unofficial freeze on death penalty

Tom Allard, Jakarta
INDONESIA has not executed anyone for almost two years, suggesting a reluctance by authorities to dispense the ultimate punishment.

The hiatus in sending people before a firing squad, Indonesia's only method of execution, follows a number of state-sanctioned killings in 2008, during which 10 people were put to death.

It also comes as the three Australians on death row for drug smuggling - Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan - launch their final legal appeals this year.

While repeated queries to various government agencies failed to elicit a reason for the apparent execution moratorium, Papang Hidayat, from the human rights advocacy group Kontras, has an explanation.

''We think it is due to the criticism they [the Indonesian government] received after what happened in 2008,'' said Mr Papang. ''We heard [Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] received criticism from the European Union which was relayed confidentially … There was other criticism, too, from at home and abroad.''

There are more than 100 people in Indonesia on death row, with roughly half of those receiving the punishment for drug trafficking. The last executions, of Bali bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, took place in November 2008.

The apparent freeze is the more surprising because the Indonesian Attorney-General, Hendarman Supandji, was granted the power by the Supreme Court to speed up executions last year after he complained of legal obstructionism blocking his department.

While few anticipate that the moratorium will last forever, or that Indonesia will abolish the death sentence soon, there has been a discernible shift in attitudes.


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