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U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

NEW YORK: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Indonesia on Friday not to execute prisoners on death row for drug crimes, including citizens of Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap. Five foreigners were among six people executed last month, the first executions since President Joko Widodo took office in October.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban had spoken with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Thursday “to express his concern at the recent application of capital punishment in Indonesia.”

“The United Nations opposes the death penalty under all circumstances,” Dujarric said in a statement on Friday. “The Secretary-General appeals to the Indonesian authorities that the executions of the remaining prisoners on death row for drug-related offenses not be carried out.”

Indonesia’s Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said this month that two Australians – Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31 – are among eight prisoners due to be executed after Widodo rejected their clemency pleas in January.

Nationals of Brazil, Malawi, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Vietnam were executed by firing squad in January.

The case of the two Australian men threatens to strain already fragile relations between Australia and Indonesia.

The two were identified as leaders of the so-called Bali Nine, a group of nine arrested on the resort island in 2005 and convicted of attempting to smuggle some 18 lb (8 kg) of heroin to Australia. Other members of the group have been sentenced to long prison terms.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesman said the death penalty was in accordance with Indonesian law and did not conflict with respect for human rights as governed by the constitution.

“The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that the death penalty can be imposed for the most serious crimes,” spokesman Armanatha Nasir said by text message.

“Indonesia is of the view that drug crimes constitute most serious crimes that have indiscriminately made millions of victims suffer and caused many deaths.”

Australia is pursuing a last-ditch deal with Indonesia to save its citizens, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Thursday. She said last month she would not rule out recalling Australia’s envoy if the executions went ahead.

Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in Indonesia, and Nigeria summoned Indonesia’s ambassador in Abuja, after last month’s executions.

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