Indonesia in spotlight over "imminent executions"

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN File Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The imminent execution of 14 people in Indonesia must not be allowed to go ahead, the UN's top human rights official said Wednesday.

In an appeal to the Indonesian authorities, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called for a moratorium on the death penalty to be reinstated immediately.

Most of the condemned prisoners are on death row for drug-related offences, which the High Commissioner for Human Rights said was not a justification for their sentences.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN opposes the use of capital punishment in all circumstances and the practice is generally on the decline around the world.

Not in Indonesia, which suspended a four-year halt on the death penalty in 2013.

That decision runs counter to an international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty and now 14 people reportedly await imminent execution, most for drug crimes.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein stressed that under international law, the death penalty may only be used for "the most serious crimes", namely those involving intentional killing.

Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold, he said.

While recognising the challenges faced by Indonesia in combatting drug-related crimes, the UN human rights chief stressed "the death penalty is not an effective deterrent relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse".

The answer, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, was for Indonesia to combat drug crime by using other deterrents and by strengthening the justice system.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'02"

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