Marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy and heroin are the most popular illegal substances that are used by Indonesia's 1.2 million drug abusers. In the mid-1990s heroin was a popular drug. However, due to a shortage of supply, fewer Indonesians are consuming heroin today compared to two decades ago. This is partly the result of Indonesia's tough stance on drug abuse. Those who are caught carrying drugs can face the death penalty.

The number of Indonesians injecting themselves with illegal drugs fell from 230,000 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2011. However, the use of psychoactive prescription drugs in Indonesia in fact rose over the same period. Abuse of the prescription medications, which include antidepressants and painkillers (somadril, subutex, subuxone, calmlet and tramadol), is particularly popular among teenage drug abusers.

Execution of Drug Traffickers in Indonesia

In July 2016 Indonesian authorities executed four people by firing squad - three Nigerians as well as one Indonesian (all convicted for drug trafficking) - on the remote Nusa Kambangan island (part of the province of Central Java). It was the third round of executions in Indonesia under the leadership of Widodo. Widodo takes a much tougher stance on drug-related crimes (compared to his predecessor) with the main goal being the safeguarding of Indonesians' health. Although the death penalty - especially for cases related to drug trafficking - is widely criticized abroad, there actually exists widespread support among the Indonesian population for the executions of drug traffickers.

However, there is no evidence that capital punishment for drug traffickers relates to a lower degree of drug crimes in society. Many point out that those who smuggle drugs are often not the big people behind global drug trade networks. Instead, they are usually men and women who are desperate to earn money to make a living and therefore accept the risky task of smuggling drugs into a specific country. In other cases those who are caught carrying drugs were unaware about their act because they were tricked. As such, executions will have limited impact.

Another source of criticism is that Indonesia's justice/legal system is known to be flawed and therefore it easily leads to the execution of innocent people. For example, allegedly, Pakistani citizen Zulfiqar Ali - who is among those who face imminent executions on drug smuggling - was violently beaten by Indonesian police officers in order to 'encourage' a confession. Other reports claim that foreign prisoners are often denied an interpreter and/or lack access to consular services.

Should the Indonesian government scrap the death penalty?

Voting possible:  -


  • Yes, Indonesia should remove capital punishment altogether (69.7%)
  • No, I agree with the death penalty (16.3%)
  • Indonesia should keep the death penalty but not for drug trafficking (11.4%)
  • I don't know (2.6%)

Total amount of votes: 307

Worldwide, Indonesia is one of 33 countries that still use capital punishment for drug-related offenses. The only western nation that still applies the death penalty for drug-related crime is the USA (but only for exceptional cases). According to data from Amnesty International there are currently more than 165 people on death row in Indonesia, nearly half of whom for drug-related crimes.

Earlier, the Indonesian government informed that it targets to execute 18 convicted drug traffickers in full-year 2016, followed by another 30 in 2017. In 2015 Indonesia executed a total of 14 convicted criminals.

Worldwide Executions in 2015 Map