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Open Access Indonesian Capital Punishment in Comparative Perspective

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Indonesian Capital Punishment in Comparative Perspective

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image of Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia

Indonesia’s execution of 14 narcotics prisoners in 2015 was a surprise. Capital punishment has been a persistent feature of Indonesia’s legal system, but Indonesia had previously conducted few executions. New president Joko Widodo gave no prior signal that he strongly supported capital punishment. This article undertakes a comparative analysis of Indonesia’s use of capital punishment under Widodo and his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It finds capital punishment has persisted despite the presence of up to six of seven factors comparative scholars hold to be determinants of abolition. Its persistence shows political leadership supportive of capital punishment to be a formidable obstacle to abolition, even when many other determinants are manifest. The Indonesian case suggests that factors that shift debate away from capital punishment’s merits are most likely to spur abolition. Chief among these is the imperative to protect citizens from the death penalty abroad, a factor unanticipated in the international literature.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Research Fellow, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne david.mcrae@unimelb.edu.au

10.1163/22134379-17301002
/content/journals/10.1163/22134379-17301002
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Indonesia’s execution of 14 narcotics prisoners in 2015 was a surprise. Capital punishment has been a persistent feature of Indonesia’s legal system, but Indonesia had previously conducted few executions. New president Joko Widodo gave no prior signal that he strongly supported capital punishment. This article undertakes a comparative analysis of Indonesia’s use of capital punishment under Widodo and his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It finds capital punishment has persisted despite the presence of up to six of seven factors comparative scholars hold to be determinants of abolition. Its persistence shows political leadership supportive of capital punishment to be a formidable obstacle to abolition, even when many other determinants are manifest. The Indonesian case suggests that factors that shift debate away from capital punishment’s merits are most likely to spur abolition. Chief among these is the imperative to protect citizens from the death penalty abroad, a factor unanticipated in the international literature.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134379-17301002
2017-01-01
2018-06-25

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