Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Abolition of Death Penalty for Drugs - Singapore doing it, when will Malaysia follow suit?

The global trend is towards abolition of death penalty - but Malaysia still is with the minority that is keeping the death penalty. In some cases, discretion to judges are removed in law - where to find a person guilty means the judge has no choice but to pass the death sentence - the mandatory death penalty. This is so wrong.

Drug Trafficking is just one such offence which carries the death penalty - the mandatory death penalty. Worse still, there are legal presumptions that come into play and shifts the burden to the accused person, and these presumptions are near impossible to defeat. If someone places 2kg of heroin in your car or your home, then the presumption is that you are in possession of the said drugs - Tell me how you can prove that the drugs were not yours. Impossible, it is not.

37(d) any person who is found to have had in custody or under his control anything whatsoever containing any dangerous drug shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been in possession of such drug and shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have known the nature of such drug;

Then, there is the 2nd presumption, that if the amount of drugs is above a certain weight, you are presumed to be a drug trafficker, how again do you prove that you are not a drug trafficker. Again, it is almost an impossible task.

37(da) any person who is found in possession of -(i) 15 grammes or more in weight of heroin;…(xxv)…   otherwise than in accordance with the authority of this Act or any other written law, shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to be trafficking in the said drug

Since 1960 until March 2011, 441 persons were hanged in Malaysia, and out of this 228 was for drug offences.

On 31/3/2011, it was revealed that 696 persons are on Death Row, awaiting to be hanged to death if all their appeals fail. Out of this, 479(69%) are for the offence of drug trafficking.

What is most sad is that almost all these persons who have been convicted for drug trafficking and waiting to be hanged are not the kingpins and the real crooks but are ordinary persons who have been caught with drugs in their possession (most may be couriers, knowingly or unknowingly, and some may just be persons totally innocent, who maybe even have been set up by others) - Death is just too harsh a punishment for such people...

We need to certainly abolish the death penalty.

Most definitely, we need to abolish MANDATORY death penalties - and give judges the option to decide on suitable punishment depending on the facts of the case.

We certainly must remove these 'legal presumptions', and ensure that it must always be the duty of the Public Prosecutors to prove beyond reasonable doubt the elements that constitute the  offence...just like all other criminal cases.

Singapore is planning to remove the mandatory death penalty - and this means judges will get back options when it comes to sentencing, i.e. they can elect to not sentence a person to death, and as an alternative impose a prison sentence,...

Malaysia should follow suit....for after all, I do not believe that there are any Malaysians who would say 'NO' to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, especially for the offence of drug trafficking, and maybe also for the other offences where no life was taken. 

For more information, do visit the Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture(MADPET) Blog at http://madpet06.blogspot.com/

SINGAPORE - Singapore says it plans to change the law so that convicted drug couriers no longer receive a mandatory death sentence.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in parliament Monday that the government will seek to give judges the discretion to give life sentences to drug couriers if they cooperate with authorities in a substantive way or are mentally disabled.

Teo said Singapore would keep the mandatory death penalty by hanging for drug kingpins or distributors.
International rights groups have criticized Singapore's mandatory death penalty for drug couriers as too harsh. Singapore has argued tough penalties are a necessary deterrent to keep crime rates low.

The changes to the law must be approved by parliament, where the ruling People's Action Party controls 81 of 87 seats. - Star Tribune, 9/7/2012, Singapore to end death penalty for drug couriers who help authorities or are mentally disabled (Article by Associated Press)

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