Thursday, April 27, 2006

Indonesia: Supreme Court should set clear guidelines in death penalty review

Following is a statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on the April 17, 2006 decision of the Indonesian Supreme Court that a five-member panel of judges would review the case of three men on death row in Poso, Central Sulawesi:

"Although the men--Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus Da Silva and Don Marinus Riwu--were sentenced for inciting communal conflict in Poso in 2000, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously raised concerns regarding incongruities in their trial. Furthermore, new evidence regarding the conflict has since come to light, seemingly indicating the involvement of police and army officers.

Under these circumstances, the AHRC appreciates the Supreme Court's decision to review the case, particularly as the court had rejected an earlier appeal for review. The reason for rejection was that the men's first appeal for clemency was rejected by President Yudhoyono on November 10, 2005; according to Indonesian law, the president's decision is final. In fact, there has never been a second review of any case in the Indonesian legal tradition. The Supreme Court's decision to review this case has therefore caused confusion among legal practitioners as well as civil society. The Attorney General for instance, has already dismissed any new ruling by the panel and stated that his office is preparing for the men's execution.

The lack of legal procedure however, cannot justify the execution of these men. The Supreme Court should therefore issue clear guidelines to the government, in particular the Attorney General, to stay all proceedings until the review is completed. Under no circumstances should the three men be executed while the review is proceeding. Any uncertainty regarding the procedure in this case--there being no previous instances to follow--must not be allowed to negatively affect the rights of the victims. It is up to the court to take initiative in this instance. It must clarify whether the five-member panel will review the judgment sentencing the men, or whether it will consider the new evidence that has come to light. The Supreme Court must then issue corresponding instructions to the relevant government agencies and these communications must be made public.

Such initiative by the court will serve as a useful opportunity to assert its authority and gain public confidence. Past political history has affected the Indonesian judiciary's ability to command other government institutions. This has resulted in these agencies' confusion regarding their roles in implementing judicial decisions. It is therefore even more necessary for the Supreme Court in this instance to issue clear guidelines as to the legal procedure to be followed, including which government agencies are to be responsible for enforcing the guidelines.

It is important for civil society to also be involved in this matter. The AHRC calls upon all legal professionals as well as human rights activists to closely monitor the review and relevant developments. In particular, the national human rights commission Komnas HAM, must take an active role in pursuing this case. It would be a gross violation of human rights if people died due to a lack of procedure."

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