Indonesia Thursday rejected appeals from the UN and EU to halt the execution of 14 drug convicts including foreigners, as speculation mounted they could face the firing squad in a matter of hours.
The group, including foreigners from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe as well as Indonesians, have been placed in isolation on a prison island where Jakarta carries out executions.
Authorities stepped up preparations with ambulances carrying coffins seen crossing over to Nusakambangan island. Family members say they have been told the convicts will be executed Thursday night, according to a lawyer and diplomat — who were angry as it was earlier than they thought was allowed.
The attorney general’s office, which oversees executions, could not be reached for comment.
Indonesia last carried out executions in April 2015 when it put to death eight drug convicts, including two Australians, sparking international outrage.
But President Joko Widodo has defended the use of the death penalty to combat rising narcotics use.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday called on Indonesia to end the “unjust” use of the death penalty, while the European Union urged Jakarta to stop the “cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent”.
Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir defended the looming executions as “pure law enforcement”.
“I need to emphasise that all the legal processes of the convicts have been completed, all their rights have been fulfilled — we target the drug traffickers and not users,” he said.
Jakarta faced accusations of breaking its own laws by apparently planning to hold the executions on Thursday.
Diplomats and lawyers say they were given the legally required three days notice of the plan on Tuesday afternoon and believed the earliest it could happen was Friday.
– “This cannot happen” –
“I am very concerned — this cannot happen,” Ricky Gunawan, a lawyer for a Nigerian convict set to face the firing squad, told AFP.
“It is clearly against the law. This execution has been completely under secrecy from the start.”
Four citizens from Indonesia and ten others from Nigeria, India, South Africa, Pakistan and Zimbabwe would be executed, said lawyers from the Jakarta-based Community Legal Aid Institute, who had visited some of the inmates in prison this week.
Syed Zahid Raza, deputy Pakistani ambassador in Jakarta, said the family of a Pakistani man, Zulfiqar Ali, had been informed he would be executed Thursday night.
Spokesman Nasir said his ministry had fulfilled all their obligations by notifying foreign representatives.
But Amnesty International outlined Wednesday “systematic flaws” in the trials of several of the death row inmates, and warned the executions could not proceed while appeals for clemency were pending.
Family members of Michael Titus Igweh, a Nigerian prisoner, said his case was still under review.
“I don’t think this is fair. They should fulfil his legal rights first,” Igweh’s sister-in-law Nila, who gave just one name, told reporters in Cilacap.
Pakistan is angry about the planned execution of Ali — whom rights groups claim was beaten into confessing — and summoned Indonesia’s ambassador in Islamabad this week.
Ali’s claims of innocence were backed by a senior Indonesian official, who found numerous “inconsistencies” during an internal investigation into his arrest and trial for heroin possession in the late 2000s.
Hafid Abbas, former director-general of Indonesia’s Ministry of Justice, told AFP that he had recommended the now 52-year-old receive clemency as he was an “innocent person”.
A candlelit vigil will be held outside the presidential palace in Jakarta on Thursday evening, just hours before the 14 prisoners are expected to face a midnight firing squad.