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Report blasts treatment of Indonesia's death row inmates

Prisoners subjected to inhumane treatment and violence, activists claim

Report blasts treatment of Indonesia's death row inmates

A protester holds placards reading 'Save MU,' a death row inmate, and 'Jokowi, let MU live' during a protest against the death penalty in Jakarta in July 2016. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Rights groups have accused Indonesian prison authorities of gross neglect in their treatment of death row inmates.

Condemned inmates live in inhumane circumstances, such as overcrowded cells, are denied access to clean water and are subjected to violence, they said at the release of an eight-month study on Oct. 10 to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

They are also denied access to their families, doctors and psychologists, the activists said.

“This causes them to suffer physically and mentally,” said Arif Nur Fikri, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

The commission conducted the study from December 2018 to July 2019 in cooperation with the French group Together against the Death Penalty (ECPM).

There are 274 condemned prisoners in prisons across Indonesia, of whom 79 are foreigners. Of the total number, 267 are men and seven are women. 

Most of those on death row were handed capital punishment for drug offenses.

Fikri said the study was based on interviews with inmates in seven prisons, as well as their lawyers and families.

“These people are under intense psychological strain as they wait for execution, which requires an acceptable degree of state care. Unfortunately, when they need care, it is religious clerics, priests or pastors who help them, not medical doctors or psychiatrists,” Fikri told ucanews. 

He said in the past decade the Indonesian government has executed 39 people, 18 of whom were executed during President Joko Widodo’s first term.

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All faced execution by firing squad which resulted in unnecessary suffering for many of the victims, Fikri said.

During executions carried out in 2015-16, many of those shot did not die immediately, he said, citing another Kontras study.

According to Oblate Father Charles Patrick Burrow, a spiritual companion for Catholic prisoners in Nusakambangan prison, Central Java, some prisoners lived for up to 15 minutes before being declared dead.

Calling such suffering inhumane, he and Fikri called on the government to abolish the death penalty. They also called for living conditions for prisoners and their treatment to be improved.

Meanwhile, Adriana Veni, from the National Commission on Violence against Women, voiced concern over the treatment of female convicts, including Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines and Merry Utami from Indonesia, who are both Catholics.

"We provide counseling but gaining access to them is very difficult," she said.

Zainal Arifin, from the Penitentiary of Law and Human Rights Ministry, acknowledged that conditions in Indonesian jails could be better.

He said there should be at least three medical doctors and psychologists in each prison.

“But we have insufficient funding for that,” he said, adding that access to visitors, including families, is restricted because authorities fear drugs being smuggled into prisons and a possible threat from terrorists.

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