Int’l lawyers ask Widodo to scrap death sentence on Veloso
INTERNATIONAL lawyers’ groups have asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to permanently stop the execution of Filipino death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, asserting anew that she is a human trafficking victims.
In separate statements this month, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) also called on Indonesia to abandon death penalty as a punitive policy, saying it has been going against the global trend of abolishing this punishment.
Widodo granted Veloso a stay of execution just five minutes before kill time on April 29, becoming the only one spared from nine drug convicts scheduled for firing squad on that date.
The last-minute reprieve came after Veloso’s alleged recruiters in the Philippines, Ma. Kristina Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao surfaced, paving the way for fresh judicial proceedings to begin.
Sergio and Lacanilao are facing preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice for charges of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa filed by Veloso’s family, and trial for separate charges of large-scale illegal recruitment before the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court.
Meanwhile, Veloso remains in death row. Indonesia has yet to set terms and conditions on the reprieve.
“We write to you today to appeal to you to definitively stop the execution of Ms. Mary Jane Veloso and to impose a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, with a view of its abolition in the near future,” said the ICJ, an organization of “60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world” who advocate the protection and promotion of human rights and rule of law.
“Mary Jane Veloso is a victim of trafficking. Her alleged traffickers are now in custody of Philippine authorities and set to face trial under Philippine laws,” read the organization’s letter dated May 12.
The group asked Widodo to look into the human trafficking angle in Veloso’s case, invoking “Indonesia’s obligations under international law.”
“We call on you to ensure that Indonesian authorities fully and properly investigate the allegation that Ms. Veloso has been a victim of human trafficking, especially in light of information that has recently come to light in the Philippines, to prevent her revictimization and ensure protection of her human rights,” said the ICJ.
The five-page letter, signed by ICJ Secretary General Wilder Tayler, detailed information it had gathered from the Philippines about Veloso’s recruitment. In particular, it cited her lack of knowledge about the 2.6 kilos of heroin hidden in the luggage Sergio had given to her as a present for her flight to Yogyakarta.
The ICJ cited Indonesian domestic law on human trafficking, which has provided that “a victim who commits a crime under coercion by an offender of the criminal act of trafficking in persons shall not be liable to criminal charges.”
“…Indonesian authorities should proceed without delay, and in cooperation with the authorities of the Philippines, to thoroughly investigate the allegations that Mary Jane Veloso is a victim of human trafficking, and the connection between being trafficked and the crime for which she was convicted,” read the letter.
The ICJ also called on Indonesia “to accede to the overwhelming understanding globally that the death penalty is an unacceptable assault on rights and dignity.”
Indonesia had resumed executions in 2013 after a four-year “de facto” moratorium, said the group.
It cited how the United Nations has condemned the continuous enforcement of death penalty in certain countries.
The IAPL echoed this view, condemning Indonesia’s decision to push through with the execution of eight of Veloso’s fellow convicts as “serious violations of international human rights law.”
“We believe the current policy of executions- 14 already this year – is a substantial step backwards by the new President Joko Widodo. The IAPL expresses its hope that the President will return to the former practice and refuse to approve of future executions should they be ordered,” said the IAPL in a May 15 statement.
It also expressed solidarity with its Philippine counterpart, the National Union of People’s Lawyers, in pursuing Veloso’s cause.
“The IAPL expresses a view that is accepted by the people of many countries: the death penalty should be relegated to the past history of unenlightened penal practice. Indonesia does not need it,” said the organization.
“The President should set an example to his people that human life is precious and should not be taken by the state for crimes committed by its citizens or by foreigners,” it said. SFM/AC
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.