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UN expresses alarm at looming Indonesian executions

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jul 2016
Image Caption : Indonesian Chief Security Minister Wiranto poses during the announcement of the new cabinet at Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 27, 2016.(photo: Reuters)
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The United Nations expressed alarm Wednesday at the looming execution of 14 drug convicts in Indonesia, urging Jakarta to put an end to the "unjust" practice of capital punishment.

A group of drug convicts including foreigners have been given notice of their executions and could be put to death as early as Friday.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said Wednesday that 14 people -- including prisoners from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe -- had been put in isolation and would be executed this week.

Rights groups and governments have been voicing concern in recent days, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed alarm at the planned executions.

"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights," he said in a statement.

"The death penalty is not an effective deterrent relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse."

He said that under international law, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, it may only be used for "the most serious crimes" -- which has been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing.

Family members and embassy officials visited the condemned prisoners Wednesday on Nusakambangan island, home to a high-security prison where Indonesia conducts executions.

Indonesia -- which has some of the world's toughest anti-drugs laws -- executed 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, in two batches last year.

Activists intensified pressure on President Joko Widodo this week, with Amnesty International saying the executions would put his government "on the wrong side of history".

Indonesia last carried out executions in April 2015 when it put to death eight convicts, including two Australians and a Brazilian, sparking international outrage.

Lawyers for some of the condemned inmates have been making last-minute bids to save their clients from the firing squad.

A letter from Indonesian convict Merri Utami to Widodo asking for clemency was sent on Tuesday. Activists lobbying on behalf of Pakistani prisoner Zulfiqar Ali said they would also consider making a final appeal for clemency, despite alleging their 52-year-old client was tortured into confessing and should not have been convicted.

"We've seen how Indonesia's legal system is full of flaws. (Widodo) can actually put a moratorium on executions, he has the right to do so," said Al Araf, the director of Indonesian rights group Imparsial.

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