Indonesia has sentenced nearly 100 people to death over Zoom and other internet video applications over the past year, according to a report published this week by Amnesty International.
“Since early last year, almost 100 inmates have been condemned to die in Indonesia by judges they could only see on a television monitor,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on April 22, citing Amnesty International’s annual capital punishment report, published on April 21.
Indonesia’s supreme court last spring ordered most in-person trials should be held online to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. The mandate applied to murder and drug trafficking cases, which can carry the death penalty in Indonesia.
“The [Indonesian] Supreme Court has determined in an unprecedented decision that all lower courts are to use the Zoom videoconferencing platform to conduct their trials fully online starting April 13. The court issued a joint agreement with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Law and Human Rights Ministry late last month on conducting criminal trials via video conference,” the Jakarta Post reported in April 2020.
Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, which apply to both Indonesian citizens and foreign nationals.
“This month, 13 members of a trafficking ring, including three Iranians and a Pakistani, learned via video that they would be shot for smuggling 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of methamphetamine into Indonesia,” AFP recalled on Thursday. “And on Wednesday [April 22] a Jakarta court sentenced six Islamist militants to death using a video app over their role in a 2018 prison riot that left five members of Indonesia’s counter-terror squad dead.”
Amnesty International researchers “recorded a 46 percent increase in the imposition of the death penalty in Indonesia in 2020, with 101 out of the 117 new death sentences imposed for drug-related offences and 16 for murder,” according to the human rights group’s April 21 report.
“Five foreign nationals, all Malaysians convicted of drug trafficking, were among those sentenced to death. Four women, all Indonesian, were sentenced for murder and drug trafficking. At the end of the year, at least 482 people were believed to be under sentence of death,” Amnesty International reported.
The number of newly imposed death sentences in Indonesia last year “represents the highest number of death sentences in Indonesia since 2016 and stands in contrast to a 36 percent decline in death sentences worldwide [in 2020 compared to 2019],” the Jakarta Post noted Thursday.
Indonesia’s judicial commission told AFP on Thursday it has asked Indonesia’s Supreme Court “to consider returning to in-person trials for serious offenses, including capital cases.”
“Virtual hearings degrade the rights of defendants facing death sentences – it’s about someone’s life and death,” Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said in a statement this week.
“The death penalty has always been a cruel punishment. But this online trend adds to the injustice and inhumanity,” Hamid said.