Lawyer for executed Bali Nine pair advocates for death penalty abolition

Capital punishment does not deter serious crime, the former lawyer of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran said.

Professor Todung Mulya Lubis

Professor Todung Mulya Lubis

Speaking at a Melbourne Law School public lecture on Monday, the human rights advocate Professor Todung Mulya Lubis said the rise in executions in Indonesia is not reflected in a decline in serious crime such as murder and drug trafficking.

"The real issue is whether the death penalty is more of a deterrent than other forms of punishment, such as life or long-term imprisonment. If the answer is no, then the death penalty has arbitrarily threatened the right to life."

Professor Lubis appealed the death penalty sentence of Australians Chan and Sukumaran, which they received after being convicted of drug trafficking, on the basis that it conflicted with the right to life outlined in Indonesia's constitution.

He also argued that, in some cases, people innocent of their crimes might be wrongly put to death.

"It is inevitable that errors will be made by judges, prosecutors, or police. The death penalty is an irreversible sentence. A wrongful conviction could be disastrous," he said.

Under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has executed 14 people this year, including Chan and Sukumaran in April.

Despite this, Professor Lubis said human rights were important in Indonesia, although it had often failed to live up to its commitment to implement those rights.

"The recent executions of prisoners is a blatant example of disregard for the right to life," he said.

The legal scholar backed a proposal for the Indonesian government to implement a new criminal code that used the death penalty as an alternative means of punishment, rather than mandatory.

Ideas outlined in the draft code to encourage rehabilitation is a 10-year good behaviour clause that would see a death penalty sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

"Anyone is capable of making mistakes. He or she should be given the opportunity to correct that mistake and prove to society that he or she can participate in the development process," he said.

Professor Lubis hoped the code would eventually lead to complete abolition of capital punishment.

"We should not rule out the possibility that, in line with the global trend of abolishing the death penalty, Indonesia will, eventually, follow suit."By Andy Walsh