An alarming number of states across the globe, including Indonesia, continue to violate international law by executing people convicted on drug-related charges, Amnesty International said on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on Oct. 10.
"At least 11 countries across the globe – including China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia – have handed down death sentences or executed people for drug-related crimes over the past two years, while dozens of states maintain the death penalty for drug-related offenses," the global human rights watchdog said in a press release issued on Friday.
The administration of President Joko Widodo has declared a war on drugs and so far this year has executed 12 men and two women convicted of narcotics-related crimes. Two of those killed were Indonesian citizens, the others hailed from a variety of countries, including Nigeria, Brazil and Australia.
“It’s disheartening that so many countries are still clinging to the flawed idea that killing people will somehow end addiction or reduce crime," said Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty expert working with Amnesty. "The death penalty does nothing to tackle crime or enable people who need help to access the treatment for drug addiction."
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party, allows for the death penalty to be used only for the "most serious crimes." This is generally understood to only mean murder, but a number of countries, including Indonesia, maintain that drug offenses also fall into this category.
"These states are ignoring evidence that a response focused on human rights and public health, including prevention of substance abuse and access to treatment, has been effective to end drug-related deaths and prevent the transmission of infectious diseases," Amnesty says in its press release. "Even in relation to violent crime, there is not a shred of evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent than any other form of punishment."
Amnesty says the Indonesian government's decision to execute drug convicts is "a regressive step for a country that had looked to be moving to end executions just a few years ago, and which has successfully made efforts to seek commutations of death sentences for Indonesian citizens on death row in other countries."
The organization added: "The use of the death penalty in Indonesia is riddled with flaws, as suspects are routinely tortured into 'confessions' or subjected to unfair trials."
Besides China and Iran, Amnesty also specifically mentioned Malaysia, where drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence. "Malaysia does not publish information on executions, but Amnesty International’s monitoring suggests that half of the death sentences imposed in recent years are for drug trafficking convictions," the press release says.
Drug-related executions were also carried out in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and several other countries beyond the Southeast Asia region in recent years.
The exact number of people put to death in China is unclear, as its capital punishment figures are treated as state secrets, but the country is believed to be executing more people than the rest of the world put together, and according to Amnesty "people convicted on drug-related offenses make up a significant proportion of those executed."
The rights watchdog says Iran is the world's second-most prolific executioner, having put to death "thousands of people to death for drug-related crimes over the past decades," while executions for drug-related offenses have also "skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia over the past three years."
Amnesty says it opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception because the death penalty violates the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights