Friday, October 16, 2015

Indonesia: Report reveals endemic judicial flaws in death penalty cases


15 October 2015

Indonesia: Report reveals endemic judicial flaws in death penalty cases
Death row prisoners in Indonesia are routinely denied access to lawyers and are coerced into “confessions” through severe beatings, while foreign nationals facing the death penalty had to deal with a judicial system they hardly understand, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
Flawed Justice exposes how the government under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made a mockery of international law by carrying out 14 executions since taking office, while the lives of scores more prisoners now on death row could be at risk.
Indonesia’s callous U-turn on executions has already led to the death of 14 people, despite clear evidence of flagrant fair trial violations. The government might claim to be following international law to the letter, but our investigation shows the reality on the ground is very different with endemic flaws in the justice system,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

“The death penalty is always a human rights violation, but the numerous and serious issues with regards to how it is being applied in Indonesia makes its use all the more tragic. Authorities must end this senseless killing once and for all and immediately review all death penalty cases with a view to their commutation.”
Despite strong signs that Indonesia had moved away from the death penalty in recent years, the government of President Widodo - which took office in October 2014 - has scaled up executions significantly.

Of the 14 people who have been sent before the firing squad in 2015, 12 were foreigners and all were convicted on drugs charges. The government has vowed to use the death penalty to tackle a national “drugs emergency”, despite there being no evidence that the threat of execution can work as more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. President Widodo has also said he will reject all clemency petitions of death row prisoners on drug charges.
Amnesty International’s investigation into 12 individual death row cases reveals emblematic flaws in the Indonesian justice system, which raises serious questions about the country’s use of the death penalty.
Forced confession
In half of the cases, death row prisoners claimed that they had been coerced into “confessing” to their crimes, including through severe beatings at the hands of police officers in detention. Many claim to have been tortured or ill-treated, yet Indonesian authorities have never followed up to investigate these allegations.
A Pakistani national, Zulfiqar Ali. claims that police kept him in a house for three days after his arrest, where he was kicked, punched and threatened with death until he eventually signed a “confession”. The beating left him in such a bad state that he had to go through kidney and stomach surgery.
Despite Zulfiqar Ali detailing the torture he had endured during his trial, the judge allowed his “confession” to be used as evidence and there was no independent investigation conducted into his allegations.
The findings in Flawed Justice echo those of other national and international human rights organizations, who have found evidence of systematic and widespread torture or other ill-treatment by the Indonesian police with impunity.
Denied access to lawyer
Indonesian death row prisoners are routinely denied access to lawyers, despite this right being guaranteed in both Indonesian and international law.

Many of the prisoners mentioned in the report and charged with capital crimes are forced to wait several weeks or even months before seeing a lawyer, seriously undermining their ability to make their case in court.

There are also serious doubts about the quality of legal representation afforded to those facing drugs charges. In one recent case, the only advice a defendant received from his lawyer was to answer “Yes” to any questions from the investigator. In another case a death sentence was handed down due to a request by defendant’s own lawyer to the judges.

In none of the 12 cases examined in Flawed Justice were prisoners brought before a judge immediately after arrest as required by international law and standards – most had to wait several months before this happened.
Foreign nationals

Twelve out of the 14 people executed in Indonesian in 2015 were foreign nationals, and at least 35 other foreigners are currently on death row in the country.

But Amnesty International’s findings show that in numerous instances Indonesia violates the rights of foreign death row prisoners by denying them interpretation during or before trial, making them sign documents in a language they don’t understand, or refusing access to consular services.

Additionally in 2015, Indonesia put to death one man suffering from a severe mental disability in violation of international law. Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.


Given the serious flaws in Indonesia’s justice system, Amnesty International urges authorities to immediately establish an independent body to review all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the death sentences.

Indonesia must also reform its Criminal Code to match international standards and ensure that all prisoners’ right to a fair trial is respected.

“President Joko Widodo has promised to improve human rights in Indonesia, but putting more than a dozen people before a firing squad shows how hollow these commitments are,” said Josef Benedict.

Indonesia should set an example on human rights regionally. It is time to take this responsibility seriously - a first step must be to impose a moratorium on executions.”


Twenty-seven people were executed between 1999 and 2014, under Indonesia's first four democratic-era presidents. No executions were carried out between 2009 and 2012.

According to figures obtained from the Law and Human Rights Ministry on 30 April 2015, there were at least 121 people death row. These include 54 people convicted of drug-related crimes, two convicted on terrorism charges and 65 convicted of murder.

As of today, 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on      
+44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0)777 847 2126
email:  twitter: @amnestypress      
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Friday, October 09, 2015

Bar:- The Police Must Not Misuse SOSMA, and Must Not Ignore the Solicitor-Client Relationship

Press Release | The Police Must Not Misuse SOSMA, and Must Not Ignore the Solicitor-Client Relationship PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 October 2015 08:31pm
ImageThe Malaysian Bar is outraged over the detention of Matthias Chang — a Member of the Malaysian Bar and one of the lawyers representing Dato’ Sri Khairuddin Abu Hassan (“Dato’ Sri Khairuddin”), a politician and vocal critic of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”) — under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“SOSMA”).  The detention is reportedly for investigations into allegations of having committed offences under Sections 124K (sabotage) and Section 124L (attempt to commit sabotage), both under the Penal Code. 
Matthias Chang was arrested by the police yesterday after visiting his client, who is currently being detained at the Dang Wangi District Police Station.  It has been reported that Matthias Chang is now to be detained for up to 28 days.

It had been earlier reported that Matthias Chang and his client had both been barred from travelling outside Malaysia on 18 September 2015, and that they were about to travel to New York for the purpose of meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in relation to allegations of financial impropriety concerning 1MDB.[1]   Subsequently, Matthias Chang was questioned by the police on 28 September 2015 and 2 October 2015, as a witness in respect of the allegations levelled against his client. 

It is inexplicable that the police have now detained Matthias Chang under SOSMA, as he has been cooperative in presenting himself for questioning by the police thus far.  His arrest is an absolute misuse of the power of arrest and detention under Section 4 of SOSMA.

The Malaysian Bar expressed reservations over the use of SOSMA on Dato’ Sri Khairuddin in our press release dated 2 October 2015.[2]   These same concerns apply to Matthias Chang.  SOSMA was legislated to address terrorism threats and violent conduct. SOSMA must not be misused as a replacement for the repealed Internal Security Act 1960 (“ISA”).  The manner in which the police have resorted to SOSMA against Dato’ Sri Khairuddin and Matthias Chang is disquieting, as it appears that SOSMA is becoming the new ISA. 

The Malaysian Bar denounces the intimidation, harassment, arrest or detention of any Member of the Malaysian Bar in the discharge of his or her duties or obligations for and on behalf of any client.  Every Member of the Malaysian Bar is obliged to, and must be allowed to, act without fear or favour in the client’s interest, with due regard to the rule of law and the administration of justice.   

The Chief Justice of Malaysia, The Right Honourable Tun Arifin Zakaria, has observed that “… the lawyer does not merely carry out the duties he is professionally trained for, but assumes a special role in safeguarding the sanctity of the legal system and more importantly to uphold the rule of law.”[3] 

It is also important to note that Articles 16 and 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990, state that:

16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.


18. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.

The Malaysian Bar further condemns any attempt to transgress or erode the principle of legal professional privilege or solicitor-client privilege, in the guise of a purported investigation of a lawyer. The rationale underpinning the principle of legal professional privilege is that:

(a) it is of fundamental importance, for the proper administration of justice, that clients should enjoy absolute confidence in respect of all communications with their lawyers for the provision of legal advice and/or representation;
(b) the principle promotes the public interest, because it assists and enhances the administration of justice by facilitating the representation of clients by their legal advisors; and 
(c) the system of administration of justice depends for its vitality on full, free and frank communication between those who need legal advice and those who are best able to provide it. 

The principle of legal professional privilege must remain inviolate and absolute, as it protects all information provided by a client to the lawyer for the purposes of legal advice or representation, whereby the information cannot be divulged by the lawyer to anyone, unless the client waives the privilege.  This principle is codified in Section 126 of the Evidence Act 1950, with two limited exceptions that render the privilege inapplicable, namely, where there is “(a) any such communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose; (b) any fact observed by any advocate in the course of his employment as such showing that any crime or fraud has been committed since the commencement of his employment”.

The police must scrupulously adhere to this salutary principle — well-entrenched in both statute and common law — of legal professional privilege, and must not seek to obtain from Matthias Chang any information given to him by his client, Dato’ Sri Khairuddin, by ignoring or breaching this long-standing principle. Any interference with the principle is wholly abhorrent, and obverse to the administration of justice.
The Malaysian Bar demands that the police recognise and respect the role and responsibilities of Matthias Chang as a lawyer, release him immediately, and refrain from any action that is likely to harass, impede or obstruct him from performing his duties to his client.

Steven Thiru
Malaysian Bar

9 October 2015      


The Malaysian Bar denounces the intimidation, harassment, arrest or detention of any Member of the Malaysian Bar in the discharge of his or her duties or obligations for and on behalf of any client.  

The Malaysian Bar will hold a candlelight vigil to reaffirm the independence of the Bar, as follows:

Date:  Tomorrow, 10 October 2015 (Saturday)

Time:  7:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Venue:  Bar Council, 15 Leboh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur