Will Putrajaya commit to end mandatory death penalty? groups ask amid cross signals

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Pic by HAKAM/Thulsi Manogaran
Pic by HAKAM/Thulsi Manogaran

 

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — With mixed signals from ministers, several non-governmental organisations called on the federal government today to state clearly its stand on the mandatory death sentence in practice currently.

Representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Malaysian Bar and French group The Organisation Together Against Death Penalty urged Putrajaya to abolish the practice in favour of more humane sentences.

SUHAKAM Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (right) - pic by NSTP/Rosela Ismail
SUHAKAM Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (right) – pic by NSTP/Rosela Ismail

“The views on this and human rights by the Cabinet vary. Some are committed but some have not made a stand at all,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam told reporters at the Asian Regional Congress on Death Penalty here.

“We must get the top leadership including the PM to be committed to this. There is intention but there is no follow up,” he added.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low had voiced his support for the abolishment of the death sentence in drug-related offences earlier today at the same event.

Low said the practice was “unfair” as more often than not, it was the drug mules who were caught and hanged instead of the syndicate leaders.

President of the Malaysian Bar Steven Thiru - pic by MMO/Saw Siow Feng
President of the Malaysian Bar Steven Thiru – pic by MMO/Saw Siow Feng

President of the Malaysian Bar Steven Thiru said the government has repeatedly promised a review of the death penalty in the past few years but there have been no developments since 2009.

The groups also urged the government to make public current data on the death penalty.

“We are quoting data that goes back to November 2013. We can’t say… that abolishing death penalty would help deter drug cases because we have no exact data on that.

“That is the sorry state of affairs here. Data should be made public so that we know what is the breakdown,” Steven said.

Lawyer Julian McMahon commended Malaysia’s civil society for pushing for reform on capital punishment but said political willpower was needed to change the laws in the region.

“What is needed now is leadership at political level and civil society to lead the region in this matter,” said McMahon who represented two men who were part of the Bali nine recently executed for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

Malaysia is among 22 countries that executed inmates on death row last year.

In its Death Sentences and Executions Report 2014 by Amnesty International in April, the human rights watchdog noted that at least 38 people in the country were sentenced to death and two executed last year.

It added that 70 per cent of the convictions were for drug-related offences.


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