“The death penalty is widely considered to be a disproportionate penalty for drug-related offences.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
In an April 9 letter of appeal to Indonesian president Joko Widodo, IADL president Jeanne Mirer expressed grave concern “because of the numerous reported violations of Veloso’s human rights, including the right to a fair trial and due process, as guaranteed under both domestic and international law.”
Death penalty, said Mirer, “should be reserved only for the most serious cases and that no individual should be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.”
Veloso was sentenced to death months after she was arrested back in 2010. Her family said Veloso was a victim of trafficking by no less than her godsister.
The IADL, which has a consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said they hope that the Indonesian government would consider their letter.
Mirer stressed in the letter that the “seriousness or gravity of the crime” is crucial in determining the severity of the sentence.
Article 6 of the ICCPR and the UN ECOSOC Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, she added, limits imposition of death penalty to the “most serious crimes.”
The UN Human Rights Committee, for its part, has ruled that death penalty should be “an exceptional measure.”
“The death penalty is widely considered to be a disproportionate penalty for drug-related offences,” Mirer said.
She said it means that the death penalty should be reserved for only the ‘most serious crimes,’ and should not be imposed if the offender’s level of participation “was anything short of maximal.”
The international lawyers’ group, further stated in its letter that the Indonesian court should also assess a defendant’s situation as aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as covered by the principle of individualized sentencing.
The individualized sentencing, Mirer said, provides consideration for mitigating evidence for one’s case. Failure to consider such would violate one’s right to not to be “arbitrarily deprived of one’s life, to be free from inhuman and degrading punishment, to a fair trial, and to access to justice.”
Mirer said the death penalty “is final, irreversible, and engages the most fundamental of all human rights, namely, the right to life.”
“Sentencing a defendant to death by reference to the category of the offence rather than the individual circumstances of the offender is arbitrary, disproportionate and contrary to the basic norms of due process,” she said.
As in this case, Mirer said, Veloso was forced by the dire conditions in the country to seek work abroad. Her intention, she said, was not to smuggle heroin but to find a job. Veloso, too, was not given due legal services such as a duly-accredited translator and a lawyer.