Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Justice System in Indonesia

The death sentence being sought for former antigraft czar and murder suspect Antasari Azhar has reignited debate over capital punishment in a country with more than 100 people on death row and which executed 10 people in 2008 — a record for the post-Suharto era.

Rights activists have said that aside from capital punishment being a violation of human rights, the country’s notoriously corrupt judicial system raises the real possibility that an innocent person could end up facing the firing squad.

Antasari, along with middle-ranking police officer Wiliardi Wizar and businessman Sigid Haryo Wibisono, is facing the death sentence for allegedly plotting and ordering the murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen in March last year.

Prosecutors in Antasari’s case argued that death was appropriate for the defendant, in line with the legal principle that provides for heavier sentences for the instigator of a crimes. In separate trials, prosecutors sought life sentences for the five men who carried out the murder — although they were sentenced to jail terms of between 17 and 18 years.

Rights activists argue that prosecutors are applying double standards, pointing to the handling of the 2008 trial of a former top intelligence official, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, who was accused of ordering the murder of Munir Said Thalib, a prominent human rights activist.

Usman Hamid, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which Munir founded, pointed out that the prosecutor in charge of Muchdi’s case, Cirus Sinaga, is also leading the prosecution in Antasari’s trial.

But in Muchdi’s trial, Cirus only proposed a 15-year sentence despite the fact that he had earlier demanded a life sentence for the man who carried out the murder, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.

Lawyers also point to inconsistencies in the case of Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former President Suharto, who ordered the July 2001 murder of a Supreme Court justice who had upheld his conviction for graft.

The two men convicted of carrying out the murder were sentenced to life in prison, while Tommy received a 15-year jail term and served less than a third of that after a series of sentence reductions.

“The Tommy case is one more proof of how unpredictable our justice system is,” said Alamsjah Hanafiah, a lawyer whose client, Gunawan Santoso, is awaiting execution for his conviction in a separate murder case.

“Tommy and Gunawan faced exactly the same charges. Both were accused of premeditated murder, hiring hit men to carry out the murder and fleeing justice. But what a contrast of fates for Tommy and Gunawan.”

Alamsjah said on Friday he was preparing to file for a judicial review with the Supreme Court.

According to Kontras, at least 109 people are currently awaiting execution by firing squad. Convicted drug dealers make up roughly half of that figure.

Authorities in 2008 executed 10 convicts, including three people convicted in the 2002 Bali bombings. That figure matched 1986 for the most people executed in Indonesia in a single year.

But rights group Imparsial says the death penalty belongs to a bygone era and should be abolished.

The death sentence is against the 1945 Constitution and reflects 19th century values of retribution, which doesn’t apply in today’s society. By Heru Andriyanto for the Jakarta Globe

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