Q&A: will Indonesia listen to pleas to spare people on death row?

Will Indonesian President Joko Widodo listen to requests from heads of state to spare their citizens who are facing the death penalty? EPA/Azhar Rahim

Despite local and international pressure to spare the lives of people on death row, Indonesian President Joko Widodo is adamant he will reject requests for clemency for more than 60 convicted drug traffickers.

On Sunday, Indonesia executed five foreign nationals and one Indonesian convicted of drug trafficking.

Brazil and the Netherlands, whose citizens were among those killed, recalled their ambassadors and condemned the killings.

Australia has requested clemency for two of its citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the Bali Nine drug ring. The Indonesian government has rejected Sukumaran’s plea for clemency. Chan is still waiting to hear the result of his appeal.

Jokowi said he would not compromise on the death penalty for drug traffickers due to rampant drug use.

The Conversation spoke to lecturer in political science Djayadi Hanan from Paramadina University on the potential for international pressures to impact Indonesian policy.

Are international pressures likely to have an impact on Indonesian law on drug-trafficking punishment?

I think the impact will not be that serious. The Indonesian government, especially Jokowi’s administration, wants to impress on the public that it is very serious about law enforcement.

Taking a strong stance against international pressure has also been widely popular and this can strengthen Jokowi’s standing. He has been widely portrayed as a weak leader by his political opponents.

As the focus of this administration is more on domestic issues, the government will react to international pressures like this with a normative stance – that is, to state that the verdict on executions has been in compliance with the law of the land.

How does Indonesia view the moves by Brazil and the Netherlands to recall their ambassadors?

I think the Indonesian government sees the move in a more normative way. When questioned by the media, Jokowi has – on several occasions – always answered that what Brazil and Netherlands do is solely to protect their citizens the best they can.

Indonesia, on the other hand, also has the right to implement the law as needed. Since drug trafficking is considered an extraordinary crime – just like corruption – the Indonesian government has a strong conviction that the maximum punishment should be appropriate for such crime.

What is the general view of the Indonesian population on capital punishment for drug traffickers?

I think there is a general view among the Indonesian public that the maximum (death penalty) for drug traffickers is acceptable. The reason for this is that such crime has a devastating effect on Indonesians in general and the youth in particular.

Such crime has been so poorly handled that the public wants a kind of shock therapy. Maximum punishment, even the death penalty, is considered part of that shock therapy to make sure that people will think seriously before committing activities related to drug trafficking.