Monday, October 22, 2012

Good that Malaysia may at last abolish the mandatory death penalty

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) reiterates its call for the abolition of the death penalty. It is good that the Malaysian government is seriously looking into the 'possibility' of withdrawing the mandatory death penalty for drug mules.

In Malaysia, when you are found to be in possession drugs above a certain weight, you are presumed in law to be a 'drug trafficker', when the fact of the matter is that these persons are more likely just 'drug mules', and in some cases were even ignorant of the fact that they had any drugs in their possession.  

When drugs are found in your car, your room or in your possession, the law presumes that it is your drugs, and you then have to prove that it is not yours. How exactly would you be able to prove that the drug that was found in your car boot or under your bed was not yours? After all, it could very well have been placed by some other... 

Our current laws concerning drug trafficking is unjust as it relies very much on legal presumptions, rather than placing the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt of all elements that constitute the crime on the prosecution as is done for almost all other crimes. 

Mandatory sentences remove from the judges the discretion when it comes to sentencing, which normally depends not just on the proof of guilt but also other factors and circumstances. A plea of guilty by the accused person normally would result in reduction of the sentence by a third - but alas, when the only available sentence is a mandatory sentence, more so the death penalty, these factors that a judge will normally take into account in sentencing becomes irrelevant.

Mandatory death penalty, as a first step, must be removed from our statute books. Legislative can fix minimum and/or maximum sentences, but the didiscretion as to sentencing must always rest with the judiciary.   

PADANG RENGAS: The Government is looking into the possibility of withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Attorney-General's (A-G) Chambers would study the suitability of the move.

“One of the main reasons is because there are close to 250 Malaysians arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death abroad, including in China, Venezuela and Peru.

“It is difficult to justify our appeal to these countries not to hang them when our own country has the mandatory death sentence,” he said in a press conference in Sauk, near here yesterday.

Convicted drug traffickers in the country now face the mandatory death sentence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Nazri, who is also the de facto Law Minister, said he would need to seek Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's view before discussing the suggestion with the A-G.

“If the Government is going ahead with the suggestion, we need to have a moratorium on death sentences from being carried out for those who are convicted in Malaysia.

“We are considering an alternative of 30 years' jails or more and allowing judges to have discretionary power under the Act,” he said.

On the issue of porn blog duo Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, Nazri said he would refer the matter to the A-G's Chambers.
“We need to look into what Malaysian laws they have broken. But also we need to remember that anything that is morally wrong does not necessarily mean that it is legally wrong.

“We definitely do not condone the act. This is what happens when there is absolute freedom of expression,” he said. - Star Online, 21/10/2012, Death penalty may be scrapped for drug offences

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