10/20/2012, 00.00
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Political battle in Jakarta over death penalty moratorium

by Mathias Hariyadi
President and the Supreme Court commute the death penalty against drug traffickers. According to the critics this will jeopardize the fight against drugs. Foreign Minister in favor of moratorium. Asia home to almost all executions.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A fierce political controversy is fueling a long standing debate between those for and against the death penalty after the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs called for the abolition of the death penalty a few days ago. Activists, anti-crime experts and members of civil society are each defending their position on the controversial subject that combines the fight against crime with the overriding principle of respect for human rights. The confrontation threatens to escalate, with those in favor of capital punishment pointing the finger at the president and the Supreme Court, guilty of recently commuting death sentences against high profile drug lords to life in prison.

In recent weeks, representatives of civil society, prosecutors and security force members reacted with outrage and anger at the news of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's clemency for a group of drug traffickers. Previously, the Supreme Court had saved members linked to drug trafficking, as the drug underworld - trafficking and consumption - is becoming increasingly serious claiming victims especially among young people. A significant part of civil society is calling for stiff penalties and sees the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment as a defeat.

Recently, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced he was in favour of abolishing the death penalty, in accordance with international movements pressing for a moratorium on the death penalty. He added that "97 States out of 140 member states of the United Nations" have "officially declared the abolition of capital punishment" and Jakarta is considering a possible moratorium, for a measure that constitutes an "obstacle" to the obvious protection "of human rights ".

According to data provided by activists and pro human rights organizations, in 2011 at least 5 thousand executions took place worldwide, a slight decrease over the previous year, which saw 5,946 death sentences. The nations with the highest number of executions are China, followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia, although Beijing has seen - according to official data - a decline, from 5 thousand in 2010 to about 4 thousand last year. The machinery of death continues in Japan, the only democratic and developed nation that, along with the United States, still applies the death penalty. Although Tokyo had halted executions in 2011, they were resumed in March 2012 when two murders were put to death.

The continent of Asia registers almost all executions: in 2011, 4931 were executed (98.6% of the total), a decrease compared to 2010, with a figure of more than 5,800 .




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