Indonesia: executions will not stop drug problem

Our Linking Organisation in Indonesia, Rumah Cemara, has written to the President of Indonesia to strongly condemn his decision to give the go-ahead to execute six people for drugs related offences.

An open letter - signed by more than thirty Indonesian civil society organisations including Rumah Cemara - was sent to the President, Ir. H. Joko Widodo. It calls for an end to all pending executions. A further 64 people – both foreign and Indonesian nationals – have been sentenced to death and are currently waiting on death row.

Vincent Rumahloine for the International HIV/AIDS AllianceIndonesia has one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in Asia. Injecting drug use is a key driver of new infections. Rumah Cemara takes a harm reduction approach to tackling drug use and HIV. According to Ardhany Suryadarma, their Policy Manager for the EU funded project, Asia Action on Harm Reduction:

“These executions only exacerbate the stigmatisation of people who use drugs, driving them underground and away from methadone programmes and safer injecting equipment. We know the services we provide keep individuals safer and curb the HIV epidemic.”

“In the letter, we call on our President to review Indonesian narcotics law enforcement policy and find more effective approaches to addressing the country’s drugs problem.”

The letter draws on the strong body of evidence which shows that the death penalty for drugs traffickers is not an effective response to the global drug problem, and is in violation of international human rights law.

According to Harm Reduction International, there are at least 32 states around that world that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences. Indonesia ended its unofficial moratorium on executions in 2013 when 2 executions took place. There is no evidence to suggest that this has led to any decrease in drug trafficking crimes or the number of people who use drugs.

The Letter also stresses that the executions of people who traffic drugs is disproportionate to the crimes committed, and has little effect on drug dealers who are running illicit trafficking businesses, and on the number of people who use drugs.

Rumah Cemara is part of a global campaign Support Don’t Punish which aims to raise awareness of the harms caused by the criminalisation of people of people who use drugs.

  • The open letter was triggered by the execution on 18 January of six people from Indonesia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Vietnam and Malawi.
  • Rumah Cemara is one of five Linking Organisations who are implementing the Community Action on Harm Reduction Programme. Working in collaboration with the government of Indonesia, they are currently working in three provinces: West Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara Barat where HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is in the region of 60%. In 2015, the programme will extend to a further three provinces: Jakarta, East Java and Riau Island.
  • The European Union has issued a statement on the executions.