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Press briefing note on Indonesia / death penalty and Climate change and human rights

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 6 March 2015
Subject:   (1) Indonesia / death penalty and  (2) Climate change and human rights

(1) Indonesia / death penalty

We urge the Government of Indonesia to refrain from executing individuals convicted of drug offences by exercising its constitutional authority to grant clemency. Regrettably six people found guilty of drug offences were executed in January and several others are due to face the firing squad imminently.

Indonesia's relentless efforts to fight the scourge of drug trafficking are understandable, but this is not the way to do it. By taking this course, Indonesia sadly will weaken its own position when advocating for its own nationals who sometimes face the death penalty abroad.

In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, international human rights jurisprudence requires that capital punishment may only be imposed for the ‘most serious crimes’ of murder or intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold of 'most serious crimes'.

As the High Commissioner stressed at the Human Rights Council yesterday, there is no evidence that the death penalty deters drug crimes or any other crimes more than other forms of punishment. It is not the severity of punishment that deters wrongdoers, but its certainty. The High Commissioner also referred to a note issued by the International Narcotics Control Board on 4 March 2014, which encourages the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences.

We call on the Indonesian authorities to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty and conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence. We understand that reports have emerged in the last few hours indicating that the executions may have been put on hold. We will continue to monitor developments.

(2) Climate change and human rights

We would like to draw your attention to today’s full-day panel discussion at the Human Rights Council, examining the potentially devastating impact of climate change on human rights.

The panellists include the President of Kiribati, and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, two Pacific Island States which are on the frontline of the global battle against climate change.

Opening the discussion, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri told the Council that human-induced climate change is not only an assault on the world’s shared ecosystem but it also undercuts “the rights to health, to food, to water and sanitation, to adequate housing and – for the people of small island states and coastal communities – even the right to self-determination.”

If sea levels continue to rise at the current rate, these low-lying Pacific states could be submerged within decades. Some of their citizens have already been forced out of their homes. The two governments are struggling to supply their people with adequate supplies of food and clean drinking water. They are now preparing for a time when they might have to become climate change “refugees”. In January, a minister from Kiribati told the Human Rights Council that the government was buying land offshore and providing  people with the skills to “migrate with dignity” when their islands were no longer habitable.

But it isn’t just a matter of packing up and moving elsewhere. If the islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu disappear beneath the waves, all the trappings of a modern state - government buildings, courts, hospitals and schools - will vanish with them. Their peoples’ right to self-determination will be undermined. Their leaders will have to find ways of reconstituting their states elsewhere, or persuade another government to provide their citizens with passports, welfare and protection. If they can’t do this, these “climate change refugees” will become stateless.

Their stories are one small aspect of a massive problem which could affect many millions of people over the decades to come, with dire economic social and political consequences.

We are calling for human rights standards to be put front and centre of discussions on mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. Any action designed to limit climate change must have people’s rights at its core. This should be taken into account when the UN Climate Change Conference convenes in Paris later this year to draw up a new global agreement.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org).  

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