Freeze all executions pending mandatory death penalty review, says Ambiga

Source: The Malaysian Insider

National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam) president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan says the mandatory death sentence limits the judge’s ability to use discretion based on circumstances of the drug-related offence. – The Malaysian Insider pic, November 19, 2015.

The National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam) has urged the government to impose a moratorium on the execution of 1,022 prisoners on death row for the time being, following Putrajaya’s announcement that it planned to abolish the mandatory death sentence on drug-related offences.

Hakam president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the plan was a step in the right direction and added that it should also be applied to all criminal offences.

She said the mandatory death sentence deprived the sentencing judge the discretion to consider all the relevant facts of the case and the individual circumstances of each convicted person.

“A sentencing judge must be given the option to impose the appropriate sentence,” Ambiga said in a statement today.

On Tuesday, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said Putrajaya planned to table a bill in March to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences.

She had said this would allow judges to use their discretion to choose between sentencing a person to jail and the gallows in non-criminal cases.

“What we are looking at is the abolition of the mandatory death sentence. It is not easy to amend and we are working on it.

“We can get rid of the word ‘mandatory’ to allow judges to use their discretion in drug-related offences,” the minister said.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview recently that he would propose scrapping the mandatory death penalty to the Cabinet, adding that it was a “paradox”, as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

Apandi said that this would be in line with the “universal thinking” on capital punishment, although he dismissed total abolition of the death penalty altogether.

Ambiga said today that a recent Public Opinion Survey on Death Penalty in Malaysia undertaken by Emeritus Professor Roger Hood QC from the University of Oxford revealed that the majority of Malaysians did not support the death penalty.

It violated the right to life guaranteed under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and was undoubtedly a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to international law, she added.

As such, the activist and lawyer said Malaysia should show genuine commitment to abide by international norms in relation to the right to life and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, given that it had been on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and was presently on the Security Council as a non-permanent member.

“We hope that the government will continue taking steps in the right direction towards the ultimate abolition of the death penalty,” Ambiga said. – November 19, 2015


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