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'Death sentence won't stop drug dealers'
Abdul Khalik, Jakarta

Human rights campaigners have reiterated their call for end to the death penalty, which they say has proven ineffective in deterring drug dealers and is against the basic human right to live.

"There is no empirical data that supports an argument a country which has the death penalty can drop its offending rate lower than countries that don't apply capital punishment," Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) director Hendardi said on Saturday.

Hendardi said only God, not the state, had the right to take peoples' lives.

"The right to life is the fundamental right of every human being. (The government) should forthwith scrap any rules legitimizing the death sentence," he said.

Noted human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said life imprisonment should be the maximum sentence for criminals.

"I fully support efforts to punish all drug dealers and other big-time criminals as severely as possible. But I disagree with the death sentence because it is against our basic right to live," he said.

On Thursday, President Megawati Soekarnoputri rejected requests for clemency by seven more drug traffickers on death row, most of them foreigners. The decision was taken more than four years after they submitted their pleas.

Earlier this year, Megawati refused to pardon Indian national Ayodhya Prasadh Chaubey, who was convicted of drug trafficking. He was arrested in Medan, North Sumatra, in 1994.

Three other drug traffickers are also facing execution after their pleas for clemency were turned down last year. They are all Indonesians -- Deni Setia Maharwan, Meirika Franola and Rani Andriani.

Hendardi criticized Megawati for delaying her decision to reject the offenders' requests, saying it meant the convicts had received a double punishment -- imprisonment and a death sentence.

"All of the president's decisions to turn down clemency pleas come after (the convicts) waited for years in prison. When their pleas were rejected, most had already been in jail for 10 years," he said.

While she accepted the imposition of death penalty, a prominent University of Indonesia criminologist, Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, also criticized the slow process.

"We should set a deadline to limit the process. If the process exceeds the deadline then the president or the court should commute the death sentence to life to avoid double punishments," she said.

There are many convicts on death row but only one offender has been executed during the past 10 years -- a Malaysian, Chan Ting Tong alias Steven Chong, who was shot by a 12-man firing squad in 1994.

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) director Comr. Gen. Togar Sianipar has demanded all death row drug traffickers be executed as soon as possible to deter others committing such crimes.

Under Law No. 22/1997 on narcotics and Law No. 5/1997 on psychotropic substances, a drug offense carries a maximum death sentence.

Although a district court may have sentenced a defendant to death, he or she can appeal to a higher court and later to the Supreme Court.

After the Supreme Court hands down its verdict, convicts can ask it to review the case before they request a presidential pardon.

Based on Law No. 3/1950, clemency request can be filed twice by the same offender.

Seven convicts whose pleas for clemency were recently rejected by President Megawati Soekarnoputri:

No. Name Age Country District court
1. Samuel Iwuchekwu Okoye 34 Nigeria Tangerang, Banten
2. Hansen Anthony Nwaolisa 37 Nigeria Tangerang, Banten
3. Indra Bahadur Tamang 24 Nepal Tangerang, Banten
4. Muhammad Abdul Hafez 36 Pakistan Tangerang, Banten
5. Namaona Denis 39 Malawi Tangerang, Banten
6. Saelow Prasert - Thailand Medan, North Sumatra
7. Namsong Sirilak - Thailand Medan, North Sumatra

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff