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  Dissent Special Issue - Defending Lawyers

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Int’l lawyers seek permanent reprieve for Veloso

(From Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 May 2015)

INTERNATIONAL lawyers’ groups have asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to permanently stop the execution of Filipino death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, arguing that she is a human-trafficking victim.

In separate statements this month, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the International Association of People’s Lawyers also called on Indonesia to abandon the death penalty, saying it goes against the global trend of abolishing this form of punishment.

Veloso was granted a reprieve by Widodo just five minutes before she was to be executed last April 29, the only one to be spared of the nine drug convicts scheduled for execution by firing squad that day.

The last-minute reprieve came after Veloso’s alleged recruiters in the Philippines, Ma. Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, surfaced, paving the way for fresh judicial proceedings to begin.


Sergio and Lacanilao are facing preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice for charges of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa, and separate charges of large-scale illegal recruitment before a court in Nueva Ecija.

Meanwhile, Veloso remains in death row. Indonesia has yet to set the terms and conditions of the reprieve.

In its May 12 letter, the ICJ, an organization of “60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world,” asked Widodo to look into the human trafficking angle in Veloso's case, invoking “Indonesia’s obligations under internationallaw.”

“Mary Jane Veloso is a victim of trafficking. Her alleged traffickers are now in the custody of Philippine authorities and set to face trial under Philippine laws,” it said.

The ICJ cited Indonesian domesticlawon human trafficking, which provides that “a victim who commits a crime under coercion by an offender of the criminal act of trafficking in persons shall not be liable to criminal charges.”

The ICJ also called on Jakarta “to accede to the overwhelming understanding globally that the death penalty is an unacceptable assault on rights and dignity.”