Stand­ing Up for Jus­tice

Retta Ok­ta­viani Su­parli talks to Law and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter Ya­sonna H. Laoly about the state of hu­man rights in the coun­try

Indonesia Tatler - - Faces | Close-up -

ndone­sia, known for its ex­tremely strict drug laws, has been at the cen­tre of global at­ten­tion since Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo re­jected a num­ber of ap­peals for clemency by drug con­victs who have been sen­tenced to death. With in­ter­na­tional death-penalty trends lean­ing to­ward abo­li­tion, our coun­try has been fac­ing crit­i­cism for its adaman­tine stance with re­gard to re­tain­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. Law and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter Ya­sonna H. Laoly shares his in­sights into this is­sue, say­ing he’s per­son­ally against it. “But I re­spect the sen­tences that have been meted out by the court to the drug con­victs,” the min­is­ter added. Jan­uary 18 saw In­done­sia’s first death-penalty ex­e­cu­tion this year: Brazil­ian drug traf­ficker Marco Archer Car­doso Mor­eira was put in front of a fir­ing squad just min­utes af­ter the clock hit mid­night. But un­for­tu­nately, he wouldn’t be the only one, as dozens of inmates are slated to face the fir­ing squad in the next round of ex­e­cu­tions.

With many death-row drug con­victs fac­ing im­mi­nent ex­e­cu­tions, it’s im­por­tant to high­light the toll of In­done­sia’s drug war on hu­man life. There are around 40 to 50 peo­ple who die from drug over­doses ev­ery day, and as a con­se­quence of this sit­u­a­tion, the govern­ment has de­clared a state of emer­gency over nar­cotics. “Again, I’d like to em­pha­sise that we have zero tol­er­ance on drug syn­di­cates.” In­deed, In­done­sia’s war on drugs is a never-end­ing bat­tle against smug­glers, and those who are on the list of death row are no­to­ri­ous drug lords, Laoly ex­plained. “They pose a fa­tal threat to our next gen­er­a­tion. Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is in­tended as shock ther­apy to other smug­glers.”

When asked how the govern­ment re­sponded to the harsh crit­i­cism from global com­mu­ni­ties with re­gards to its death-penalty pol­icy, he an­swered, “We re­spect their le­gal sys­tem, and we ex­pect that they re­spect ours, too.” Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is part of the big­ger hu­man rights is­sues that In­done­sia must promptly ad­dress to ad­vance as a na­tion in the in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal arena. Another of the is­sues is solv­ing past hu­man rights cases. And one way to speed up the so­lu­tion is by pass­ing the draft Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill, which has been in­cluded on the Proleg­nas list, the min­is­ter ex­plained.

On a more per­sonal note, Laoly said open­mind­ed­ness is es­sen­tial to build­ing a suc­cess­ful, pro­fes­sional le­gal ca­reer. He takes crit­i­cism pos­i­tively and be­lieves that the qual­ity is key to self-de­vel­op­ment. Last year, hu­man rights ac­tivists slammed the min­is­ter for his le­niency—re­leas­ing Pol­ly­car­pus Budi­hari Priyanto on pa­role. Pol­ly­car­pus is a former Garuda In­done­sia pi­lot who was sen­tenced to 14 years’ im­pris­on­ment for poi­son­ing hu­man rights ac­tivist Mu­nir in a 2004 Garuda In­done­sia flight to Am­s­ter­dam. He had served six years of his jail time be­fore en­joy­ing the pa­role. “He ful­filled all the re­quire­ments for re­ceiv­ing pa­role, and note that ev­ery in­mate has a right to be con­sid­ered for pa­role.”

Laoly agrees that there is still a lot of work to be done in the hu­man rights de­part­ment. “Free­dom of re­li­gion is one ma­jor is­sue we’re striv­ing to en­sure. Mem­bers of the In­done­sian Chris­tian Church GKI Yas­min in Bo­gor, for in­stance, have re­mained with­out a place to wor­ship af­ter the then Bo­gor mayor Diani Bu­di­arto is­sued a de­cree to freeze the church’s build­ing per­mit in 2008, fol­low­ing protests from Mus­lim hard­lin­ers op­pos­ing its pres­ence in their neigh­bour­hood. How­ever, I am glad that the cur­rent mayor has opened a new di­a­logue with the two con­flict­ing groups. In this case, though, we need to re­turn to Pan­casila as our found­ing prin­ci­ples.”

“As a coun­try with the largest Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in the world, In­done­sia proves that democ­racy and Is­lam can co­ex­ist, and the govern­ment will never stop fight­ing to solve its hu­man rights prob­lems,” he con­cluded.

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