CILACAP, Indonesia – Indonesia quickly rebuffed appeals from the U.N. human rights chief and the European Union to abandon plans to execute 14 people for drug crimes as preparations intensified Thursday at the prison island where the death row inmates are held.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the U.N. Human Rights Office is "deeply concerned" by death penalty cases that lack transparency and compliance with the right to receive a fair trial, including the right to an appeal. He called on the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to impose an immediate moratorium on executions.
The European Union said the death penalty is an unacceptable denial of human dignity and called on Indonesia to "consider joining the wide community of over 140 states that have abolished the death penalty entirely or have adopted a moratorium."
A stream of ambulances arrived Thursday morning at the port town nearest the Nusa Kambangan prison island where the executions of the mostly foreign drug convicts will be carried out by firing squads. Officials began tightening security at the prison several days ago, with more than 1,000 police sent to Cilacap, the port town, and the island.
Indonesia has not released an official list of those to be executed but the country's attorney-general on Wednesday said 14 people would be executed. Community Legal Aid Institute, which is involved in some of the death row cases, has circulated the names of 14 people that comprised four Indonesians, six Nigerians, two Zimbabweans, one Indian and one Pakistani. Previously, the attorney-general's office has said it has budgeted funds for up to 16 executions this year.
Muhammad Rum, a spokesman for Indonesia's attorney-general, said the executions are the "implementation of our positive laws" and will not be delayed or stopped. All the cases have gone through a long legal process including appeals, he said. "They all have been given chances at all stages."
It would be the third set of executions under Jokowi, who campaigned on promises to improve human rights in Indonesia. His 2-year-old administration will have executed more people than were executed in the previous decade if the government sticks to its plans.
"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying and I urge the government to end this practice, which is unjust and incompatible with human rights," Zeid said in a statement.
Lawyers and rights groups have raised serious doubts about the legitimacy of the convictions in several of the death row drug cases, including that of Pakistani Zulfikar Ali, Indonesian Merri Utami and Nigerian Humphrey Jefferson.
From Lahore, Ali's sister Humaira Bibi on Wednesday made an emotional appeal to the Indonesian government to spare the life of her ailing brother.
Justice Project Pakistan, a group that provides free legal representation, says Pakistani diplomats are trying to save Ali's life but intervention by Pakistan's president or prime minister is now required. It says Indonesian police used violent duress to obtain a confession from Ali, who was arrested in November 2004.
Last year, Indonesia executed 14 people convicted of drug crimes, mostly foreigners, sparking an international outcry.
Jokowi's predecessor ended a moratorium on executions in 2013.
Wright reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos contributed.