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Indonesia's free attorneys should be available in Saudi, too

On February 27, 2012

The Indonesian government now offers free attorneys to migrants in Malaysia facing particularly serious charges. This policy differs from the government’s standard practice in Saudi Arabia, under which state help is not provided until after migrants have been sentenced to death. Attorneys and migrants consequently face a much tougher battle, as the appeal process is inevitably more difficult than securing an initially just verdict. Furthermore, the government’s delayed response in Saudi Arabia forces migrants to endure an emotionally draining, isolated experience in the confusing foreign legal system. Supplying free attorneys at the time of arrest (which would require Saudi Arabia to notify the Indonesian consulate at such a time), would not only help migrants navigate the judicial system, but also provide them with a comforting, familiar companion.

The attorneys are also given access to a wide array of resources necessary to procure a favorable outcome. Such continual support form the central government is a critical factor in ensuring the equitable sentencing of migrants, one which the ad-hoc responses of Indonesia's Migrant Worker’s Task Force does not always provide. While the agency has had success in securing reprieve for Indonesian migrants in the past, Indonesian NGOs, including Migrant Care, note that there remains ample room for improvement. With limited access to any legal representation or translating services, migrants in Saudi Arabia face insurmountable boundaries to justice; rather than ‘fixing’ chronic problems on a case-by-case basis, the Indonesian government should make efforts to prevent excessive and unfair punishment as early as possible.