On 6 March, 2015, over 40 drug users gathered outside the Indonesian sub-consulate in Kathmandu, Nepal, to protest against the impending execution of 10 individuals convicted of drug related offences currently incarcerated on Nusa Kambangan, Indonesia’s notorious “execution island”, who are sentenced to “death by firing squad” on a date still to be confirmed by the Indonesian government. The peaceful protest, facilitated by Nepal’s national peer-led organisation, the National Users’ Network of Nepal (NUNN), was coordinated to act in solidarity with ongoing international efforts by the drug user community to oppose Indonesia’s policy of executing people convicted of drug trafficking offences and to raise the profile of human rights abuses faced by illicit drug users both within Nepal and the Asia Pacific region.
In addition to attracting support from local drug users, the protest garnered support from members of Nepal’s harm reduction organisations and drug user support services, including Saarathi Nepal (a self-identified peer-led pharmacotherapy provision and social support service) and Sathi Samuha (an NGO which offers harm reduction services to people who inject drugs and those affected by HIV/AIDS). Participants in the protest action gathered in the vicinity of Kathmandu’s Indonesian sub-consulate before marching to a rallying point directly opposite the office. In addition to
displaying a banner stating “Peaceful Protest to Stop the Death Penalty for Individuals Charged with Drug Related Offenses in Indonesia”, protestors held placards demanding, “End the War on Drugs”, “Respect Human Rights”, “End the Death Penalty, Not Human Lives”, and “This is Not What Justice Looks Like”. Five representatives of the Nepali drug user community, including Binod Gurung, Ranjit Tiwari, Rajan Maharjan, Sabin Sthapith and Jwala, subsequently met with the Indonesian sub-consulate’s assistant counsellor, Mr Dhakal, to present him with a letter addressed to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, stating NUNN’s objection to the use of the death penalty as a deterrent to drug trafficking offences and requesting a stay of execution for the 10 convicted drug traffickers on humanitarian grounds. The five advocates requested that Mr Dhakal ensure that the Indonesian ambassador proper, H.E. Iwan Wiranata-Atmadja, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, receive the letter, in addition to requesting that Mr Dhakal convey to Mr Iwan Wiranata-Atmadja, NUNN’s support for the expansion of harm reduction programs across Indonesia and that the Indonesian Government reconsider its currently excessive policies towards illicit drug use.
Aswin Thapa, President of NUNN, and a key organiser of the protest said, “NUNN was very proud of this action. We didn’t expect so much in-person support from the drug user community; however, as the death penalty is such an emotive issue and is something which directly impacts on the human rights of our brothers and sisters internationally, many Nepali drug users were inspired to participate in this protest as we all recognise the futility of using a barbaric policy such as the death penalty in an attempt to reduce illicit drug use. Many drug users in Nepal have been incarcerated for issues related to illicit drug use and subject to high levels of social ostracism and violence from the police, prison guards and the staff of “rehabilitation” centers, subsequently, we recognise that the war on drugs does not deter anyone from illicit drug use, and that many policies relating to the prohibition of currently illicit substances are responsible for exacerbating the negative impacts of illicit drugs on both the lives of drug users and our communities. Although Nepal does not have the death penalty for drug trafficking offences, people charged with of crimes related to drug use and drug trafficking offences commonly face lengthy jail terms of up to 20 years if convicted ”
Mr Thapa also said, “As part of an international community of drug users, NUNN believes that raising our voices to oppose the many human rights violations facing illicit drug users across our region is an organisational priority. The state sanctioned abuses facing drug users is endemic across the Asian region, in addition to many other regions of the world. Many policy makers don’t want to consider the issues surrounding illicit drug use as having any relevance to human rights and often when undertaking advocacy around issues related to the human rights abuses of drug users we are made to feel as though we are outer world aliens who are advocating for policy changes for which there is virtually no political will to support. NUNN was extremely proud to stand in solidarity with the international drug user community against the use of the death penalty as a deterrent to drug trafficking offences and we are extremely pleased that so many drug users around the world are acting in solidarity with activists from Indonesia and the Asian region. This was the first international action in which NUNN has participated, and we are all heartened by the response of the local drug user community in supporting this initiative. As drug users, we have all experienced some level of repression due to the implementation of drug policies which have no evidence base, so we hope that through our combined advocacy efforts we can challenge the Indonesian government and pressure President Joko Widodo, to reconsider granting clemency to the 10 people, including 1 woman, who are sentenced to death by collective execution at the hands of the Indonesian state. NUNN will continue to monitor this situation and will act accordingly in solidarity with Perssaudaraan Korban Napza Indonesia (PKNI, Indonesia’s peer-led national drug user network), the Asian Network of People who use Drugs (ANPUD), the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), and other international drug user networks, by continuing to support this campaign to the best of our capacity.”
According to a press statement issued by the Nepalese Informal Sector Service Center, there are currently five Nepali citizens, Bahar Tamang, Bir Bahadur Gurung, Indra Bahadur Tamang, Nar Bahadur Tamang and Til Bahadur Bhandari, who have been convicted of drug trafficking offences by the Indonesian judiciary and are also sentenced to death.