Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeals of two prisoners from France and Ghana currently on death row for drug smuggling. In an email interview, Gloria Lai, a senior policy officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, discussed Indonesia’s zero-tolerance approach to drugs.
WPR: What factors are pushing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to continue Indonesia’s strict anti-drug policies?
Gloria Lai: When Indonesia passed new drug laws in 2009, introducing measures to divert people who use drugs away from prison and toward drug treatment programs, the government showed signs of shifting toward a health-based approach to drug use. However, it continued to impose severely disproportionate penalties for other drug-related activities, culminating last December with Jokowi’s announcement that people on death row for drug offences will be executed. He referred to a state of emergency on drugs in Indonesia, which he claimed were causing around 50 deaths each day. But such statistics have been seriously challenged, calling into question the extent and nature of drug-related problems in Indonesia.