Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NST: Long wait to die

Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 08:11
©New Straits Times
By Tony Emmanuel

KUALA LUMPUR: They are Malaysia's forgotten convicts - prisoners who have spent more than two decades on Death Row awaiting their tryst with death.

Among this group is a man who has been awaiting execution for 22 years, since the age of 26.

The authorities are tight-lipped on why these men have yet to be executed, but the New Straits Times understands that a combination of administrative hitches and delays in handing down written court judgements have kept these criminals in solitary confinement for years.

Usually, those sentenced to death spend up to 10 years exhausting the appeals and clemency process. But when a team from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) visited Death Row in Kajang Prison to investigate the death of Alex Wong, there were several prisoners who had been awaiting execution for nearly two decades.

Suhakam is concerned whether these death row prisoners — convicted of murder, drug trafficking and firearm possession offences — are receiving two distinct punishments: the death sentence and years of living in solitary confinement.

It also wants to know whether executing someone after prolonged periods on death row violates the Constitution and the principles of justice.

There has been a debate in the United States and England on the length of time convicts spend on Death Row. In 1993, a British court found that it was inhuman and degrading to hang anyone who has spent more than five years on death row. It argued that such prisoners should have their sentences commuted to life in prison.

In the US, some death row inmates have spent more than 20 years awaiting execution and several prisoners were executed when they were in their 80s.

The Suhakam study also covers those being held in remand for long periods and those held at the pleasure of the Rulers.

Suhakam Commissioners are expected to seek the help of the Bar Council in compiling their report.


Waiting for date with the hangman

In 1993, a British court found that it was inhuman and degrading to hang anyone who had spent more than five years on Death Row. In Malaysia, one man has been on Death Row for 22 long years...

KUALA LUMPUR: One was sent to the gallows for firearms possession, another for multiple murders and the remaining three for drug trafficking.

In all, the five have spent a combined 70 years in jail. They are among those on death row who have been waiting a long time for their date with the hangman.

One of the drug traffickers was arrested in 1978. He was convicted and sentenced to death 14 years later. He remains in Kajang Prison.

The last time he was out of jail Tun Hussein Onn was Malaysia’s third prime minister and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman was still known as Batu Road.

Another long time resident on Death Row is an individual convicted for firearms possession. He has spent the past 16 years behind bars.

The prisoner convicted of multiple murders has spent almost 10 years on death row. He is now seeking legal advice on options available to him.

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