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Solutions sought to abolish death penalty

Source: The Jakarta Post (22 December 2017)

Civil society in Southeast Asia must work on more engagement, smarter solutions and data transparency in order to stem the tide of regression in efforts to abolish the death penalty in the region.

"The kind of change we want, we need to make it happen," international law expert Seree Nonthasoot said in a speech in Jakarta on Thursday at the Regional Conference on the Situation of the Death Penalty in ASEAN held by the Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in ASEAN (CAPDA).

He proposed several things for the fight to abolish the death penalty, such as using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attract ASEAN's attention. "Everyone in ASEAN loves SDGs. Goal 16 on access to justice will give you ammunition," he said. "Electrocution, gas, hanging, lethal injection, firing squad: Are these techniques for sustainability?"

Another way is by demanding transparency for penitentiaries.

"What we need is the numbers of prisoners on death row, the types of crimes carrying the death penalty, the means of commuting the death penalty, legal assistance and how many [death row inmates] are disabled," he said.

Nonthasoot highlighted the challenges that human rights defenders face in a region where only two countries have abolished capital punishment: Cambodia and the Philippines. He said the death penalty remains a sensitive topic.

"The only consensus we got is that we are going to study the treatment of those who have already been convicted [and sentenced to] the death penalty," he said, adding that he expect to launch the study in 2018.

In the past five years, more than 40 people have been executed in ASEAN, with many more waiting their turn on death row.

However, a worrying development in the region is the regression of the Philippines. The Philippine House of Representatives approved in March a proposal to reinstate capital punishment as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's main campaign promise to end crime and corruption.

Since Duterte took office in 2016, local media reported more than 8,000 deaths in his war on drugs.

CAPDA founder Rafendi Djamin called the development "ironic" considering that Manila was an exemplary case in ASEAN.

"It became a part of the international human rights commitment on the protocol where the death penalty is not part of the law anymore," he said. "But in the course of the year [...] we have had to make the Philippines a priority country for our work."

Rajiv Narayan, commissioner at the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), argued: "It's not enough to make a country an abolitionist; there are trends against it. We have to increase respect and protection for the right to life."

Narayan, who opened Thursday's conference, noted that a big part of his work with the ICDP to increase protection for the right to life involves engaging various countries and mapping out abolitionist and retentionist practices.

The primary rationale given in favor of the death penalty has always been that it deters crime. An official from the Indonesian Law and Human Rights Ministry, Mualimin Abdi, defended that rationale in Indonesia's case.

"The Indonesian Constitutional Court is of the opinion that the offenses punishable by death in Indonesia have met the standards of most serious crimes and that capital punishment is necessary for deterrence and that the reason is justified," he said.

"However the implementation of the death penalty is minimized in an effort to realize both interests of justice and fairness."

Indonesia resumed using the death sentence in 2013 following a four-year moratorium. In 2015, four people were executed, while at least 215 people remain on death row, according to CAPDA.

This post first appeared on Asia Death Penalty, please read the originial post: here

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Solutions sought to abolish death penalty


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