Indonesia has used this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to execute two Nigerians for heroin smuggling. They are the first people to be executed for drugs in the country in four years. Despite pleas for clemency from the Nigerian Government, Samuel Iwachekwu Okeye, 37, and Hansen Anthony Nwaoysa, 40, were executed by two firing squads in Nusakambangan island, off the southern coast of central Java just before midnight (17.00 GMT) on June 26th.
Commenting on the executions, Attorney-General Hendarman Supandji and Indonesia's national police chief, General Sutanto, said that other drug offenders on death row could expect their cases to be expedited. “To give them a lesson”, said Sutanto “drug traffickers must be executed immediately”.
The executions stand in stark contrast to statements from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on June 26th reminding UN member states of their obligations to protect the right to life and fair trial of people in prison for drug offences. The death penalty for drugs is itself a violation of international law and expediting executions may also breach the right to fair trial if all appeals processes are not thoroughly exhausted.
In October, the Indonesian Constitutional Court upheld the legality of the death penalty for drugs in the country ruling that the right to life had to be balanced against the rights of victims of drug trafficking.
The UNODC has this year repeatedly stated that the death penalty for drugs is an inappropriate sentence, a position repeated in the 2008 World Drug Report, launched on Thursday. In the report, UNODC executive Director Antonio Maria Costa highlighted the General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty for all offences as a way forward, but noted that ‘the gaps between international standards and the law of individual nations need to be bridged.’ The executions in Indonesia last week clearly illustrate that gap and its very real consequences.
Just two days earlier, China marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking by executing three people and sentencing a further five to death in what has become a grim yearly tradition in the country.
In March, a clause in a draft resolution calling for an end to the death penalty for drug offences failed to make it through the negotiation stages a the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.