A look at Indonesia's 'Execution Island' and what takes place there

A ferry boat carrying people, including family of death row prisoners, sails to the prison island of Nusakambangan (background), where upcoming executions are expected to take place in Cilacap, Central Java on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A ferry boat carrying people, including family of death row prisoners, sails to the prison island of Nusakambangan (background), where upcoming executions are expected to take place in Cilacap, Central Java on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

INDONESIA'S Nusakambangan Island, where convicted Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, were taken to on Wednesday, is an island nobody wants to be taken to.

The island, located 2km off the coast of south-western central Java, is called Execution Island by the locals.

It is where criminals sentenced to death are incarcerated in a prison, awaiting their impending executions.

Here, Chan and Sukumaran are just two of many prisoners who have been and will be executed.

In November 2008, three men convicted of carrying out the first bomb attack in Bali in 2002 were executed here.

On Jan 18, Indonesia put to death six people convicted of drugs offences, including five foreigners, at the prison.

The island is about 30km long and 7km wide. It does not only house prisoners, but locals live there too - about 3,000 of them. It also has beaches and caves that may be of interest to tourists. A nearby village, Kampung Laut, which has about 4,000 families, is just across a river.

Entry to the island's prison complex is tightly restricted, and it can take more than a month to process a licence for entry, even for the media. However, non-prison visitors can access the island via boat.

The massive prison complex on Nusakambangan houses more than 1,600 inmates, with seven maximum-security jails divided into separate buildings that are about 4km apart - LP Besi, LP Batu, LP Terbuka, LP Kembang Kuning, LP Permisan, LP Pasir Putih and LP Narkotik. Each jail has high walls and fences.

LP Pasir Putih is the prison with the highest level of security. Even ministers have to be searched when they enter it.

In contrast, LP Terbuka is called the "open jailhouse", and inmates are allowed to roam freely and take part in activities. Inmates here are those with a good record and have served half their terms.

Most of the convicts in Nusakambangan's prison are serving jail terms of five years or more, and includes those found guilty of drug trafficking and terrorism.

Death-row convicts are placed in isolation rooms.

But before entering the isolation cells, they would be told when they will be executed and asked to specify three last requests.

According to Indonesian law, convicts must be told when their execution will occur at least 72 hours before it takes place.

As for the grim task of the execution itself, it is done via firing squad.

According to a former executioner, the sequence of events is as follows:

1. A 12-man firing squad made up of highly trained shooters is selected to do the deed, with two extra men on stand-by. They are from the police Mobile Brigade, and specially selected to be in their 20s, and physically and mentally fit for the task.

2. The prisoners are blindfolded and led to one of the two execution fields, Nirbaya or Li-musbuntu.

3. The convict is given the option of sitting, standing or kneeling to face the firing squad.

4. The shooters will then shoot simultaneously at the inmate, aiming straight at his heart. They rarely miss as they are given extra training to hone their shooting skills.

5. The convict should die within one minute, if not instantly.

6. If the convict does not die instantly, a shooter may be told to shoot at the convict's head, right above his ear.

The former executioner said that while some death-row convicts had cried and asked for religious counsel, most accepted their fate quietly.

Sources: Jakarta Post, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Straits Times archives, The New Paper archives