Sunday, November 23, 2008

Malaysia, please VOTE for anti-death penalty UN General Assembly Resolution in December 08

On 18th December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly 'calling for a moratorium on executions to be established in all States that still maintain the death penalty'
passed a resolution

The resolution calling for “a moratorium on the death penalty”, was passed by a vote of 104 in favour to 54 against, with 29 abstentions. (See annex VI.) It called on all States that still allowed capital punishment to “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed”. Those countries were also called on to provide the Secretary-General with information on their use of capital punishment and to respect international standards that safeguard the rights of condemned inmates. - see earlier posts (a) Is Pakatan Rakyat for the Abolition of Death Penalty in Malaysia (b) U.N. panel votes for death penalty moratorium (Star)

Again in 2008,

The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee voted Thursday for the second year in a row to urge a global moratorium on the death penalty.

The United States sided with countries such as Iran, China and Syria in opposing the resolution.

The 105-48 vote marked a slight change from the 104-54 vote in the full General Assembly last December. About 30 nations abstained.

Supporters of the ban argue there's no conclusive evidence that the death penalty serves as a meaningful deterrent to crime and the risk of injustice is too high. Nations opposing the ban say the death penalty is effective in discouraging most serious crimes and remains legal under international law.

The vote in the human rights committee, though it includes all U.N. members, is not the final vote. Next month, the General Assembly will hold a final vote on the measure and the committee's vote is almost certain to be closely replicated there.

Though not legally binding, the voting does carry moral weight coming from the 192-nation world body that serves as a unique forum for debate and barometer of international opinion.

Amnesty International, which has been campaigning for the resolution, noted rising acceptance of a moratorium. In the 1990s, it was voted on twice in the General Assembly and failed.

On Thursday, the committee vote picked up one more nation than last year and six fewer opponents.

As of November, some 137 nations had abolished the death penalty in law or practice, compared with about 80 in 1988, according to Amnesty International figures.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been encouraged by the trend in many areas of the world toward ultimately abolishing the death penalty, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

Last year there were at least 1,252 people put to death by 24 nations and 3,347 others sentenced to death in 51 countries, according to Amnesty International. - Washington Times, 20/11/2008 - UN vote shows growing support of death penalty ban

In December, the UN General Assembly will be voting on this resolution - and it is expected that the results will be the same.

In Malaysia, we can still campaign with 0ur government to vote in favour of this resolution which will still be calling for an immediate moratorium on executions...

Some of the interventions of MALAYSIA during the committee stage, as obtained from the website of 7th Space Interactive are as follows:-
[Note that there could have been other interventions from Malaysia...]
The representative of Malaysia also took time to respond to arguments by the text’s co-sponsors that the Assembly should be made to welcome a global trend towards abolition, arguing that States should not make assumptions based on perceived trends, and that they should not use such assumptions to decide how other countries should evolve their own legal systems. ...

Malaysia’s representative, after asking permission to propose an oral amendment, noted that the close results of Tuesday’s votes on the draft amendments had indicated that States were still divided on the issue and that the international community was no closer to consensus. The fact that a number of delegations had voted for the amendments, or had abstained from voting, indicated their discomfort with the resolution as a whole. Therefore, he proposed that references to requests for the Secretary-General to provide a report for consideration at the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, as contained in operative paragraphs 2 and 3, be changed to “sixty-sixth session” so as to provide further time for countries to evolve their opinion on the issue. To insist on considering the question at the sixty-fifth session would perpetuate divisions.

Further, votes against the amendments of two days ago had seemed to reflect a bloc outlook and did not reflect a judgement on the merits of those amendments, which he believed would have enhanced the text. Those amendments had been defeated by sheer numbers. He invited countries to take those points into account and to support his proposed oral amendment.

The representative of Malaysia said he had been disappointed that the Committee’s important work on a range of different human rights questions had been distracted by a resolution on the issue of the death penalty on which there was no international consensus. There should not be any attempt by a country to impose their viewpoint on that issue onto other countries. While his country respected the decision by some to voluntarily abolish the death penalty and by other countries to apply a moratorium, it was concerned at attempts to offer the same respect to those countries that still maintained it.

He said he had been prepared to engage with the co-sponsors in an open spirit of dialogue and constructive engagement. In reality, that had not taken place. During the informal consultations, a number of delegations had expressed a desire for the text to be amended to strike a balance over the differing views. But, the co-sponsors had not circulated those amendments in a compilation draft, and it became clear that the co-sponsors had not wanted to negotiate the text. Thus, the Committee faced a process that was forced upon countries, and where changes made on the draft had not addressed the concerns of some countries. Those countries had provided clear, fair, non-hostile amendments reflecting the purposes and principles of the Charter and of international cooperation. Those amendments were positive in nature, given to enhance the text, so that there could be the widest possible support from all countries, regardless of where they stood, whether they were co-sponsors or not.

He said the co-sponsors have painted those amendments as undermining the spirit of the resolution, when those amendments would have brought balance to this text. The international community, as a whole, was not ready for the issue; and he was disappointed that even deferring this question to a later stage -- to allow more time for countries to evolve their views on this question -- had been greeted with negativity. For his country, the death penalty was a criminal justice issue, applied only for the most serious of crimes and only through a judicial process that included the right to appeal to courts of a higher jurisdiction and the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Other countries should not make assumptions based on perceived trends to decide how they wish other countries to evolve in their own legal systems. In that regard, he opposed the resolution.

What does Malaysia really want to do? The attempt to delay matters by one year seems to indicate that Malaysia maybe moving towards abolition of the death penalty in time. They want more time " evolve their opinion on the issue...", and by that I hope that he was talking about evolution of thought in favour of abolition.

Malaysia should at the very least adhere to the 2007 General Assembly Resolutions that require an immediate moratorium of executions. At the very least, stop all executions now, and tell us Malaysians and the whole world that we have not executed and will not execute any person until the 2010 session of the UN which will again re-visit the resolution on death penalty.

Our neighbour Thailand, also another nation like Malaysia that opposed the 2007 Resolution, did also recently declare at the committee stage that they have not executed any person since 2003...

The representative of Thailand said that it was the sovereign right of States to come to a decision on the use of the death penalty, and all States should show respect for the decisions of others. The Thai public viewed capital punishment as an effective deterrent and its judicial system allowed for petitions to be made up to the level of the Supreme Court, as well as commutations of sentences. In Thailand, the death penalty was reserved for only the most serious crimes and under certain conditions. Indeed, since 2003, no execution had been carried out by the Government.- from the website of 7th Space Interactive
It would be good if Malaysia also can declare that it will abide by the 2007 General Assembly Resolution, and will not execute anyone in Malaysia for the time being as an act of respect to the spirit of democracy.

So let us all campaign for Malaysia to vote in favour of that anti-death penalty motion that will be tabled and voted on at the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2008. After all, the resolution only calls for a moratorium at this stage - not for an abolition of the death penalty yet.

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