Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Impose immediate moratorium on all executions (FMT News)

Impose immediate moratorium on all executions

November 4, 2012
FMT LETTER: From Charles Hector, via e-mail

Malaysia’s move towards the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, and replacing it with jail terms, is most welcome. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nazri Aziz, recently said he will be moving the Malaysian Cabinet to defer the death sentences passed on 675 convicted drug traffickers in the country, while the government reviews the death penalty for drug offences.

This follows the statement in July 2012, when Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail said that his Chambers was working towards proposing an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to give judges the discretion of not imposing death sentences on couriers

In its 2009 Universal Periodic Review report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Malaysia also did  declare that it was proposing to amend “existing anti-drug trafficking legislation to reduce the maximum sentence to life imprisonment” from the currently practised mandatory death.

Most of the 675 persons on death row for drug trafficking today are “drug mules”, some of whom may have even been conned. Drug kingpins are rarely caught. In Malaysia, persons caught with a certain weight of drugs are presumed to be drug traffickers, and the onerous burden of rebutting this presumption shifts to the accused person.

This goes against the norm in the criminal justice system, where the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty is on the prosecution. There are also close to 250 Malaysians arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death abroad, including in China and Singapore, and Malaysia’s plea for clemency is inconsistent if  it retains the death penalty.

In March 2012, it was also revealed in Parliament by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein that the mandatory death penalty has been shown to have failed to act as a deterrent. Police statistics for the arrests of drug dealers under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death penalty, for the past three years (2009 to 2011) have shown an increase.

In 2009, there were 2,955 arrested under this section. In 2010, 3,700 people were arrested, whilst in 2011, there were 3,845 arrested. Sixty-nine % (or 479) of the 696  waiting for execution of their death sentences in Malaysian prisons as on Feb 22, 2011, were for drug offences. Today, there are about 900 on death row.

No legal system in the world is foolproof or error-free. There have been many examples of cases of miscarriage of justice, where innocent persons have been incarcerated for many years, or even sentenced to death. The opportunity to right a wrong is, however, not available since death is irreversible.

Suhakam has also called on Malaysia to join  the  other  140  UN member  states   to completely   abolish  the  death   penalty. The United  Nations  General Assembly have also adopted  Resolutions  in  2007, 2008  and 2010  calling  for a moratorium on executions, with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty.

Malaysia has begun commuting death sentence, whereby five Filipinos on death row had their sentenced commuted to prison terms earlier this year. 

We call for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia, for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition and for the commutation of the sentences of all persons currently on death row;

We also call on Malaysia to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

This letter is written for and on behalf of 73 international trade unions and organisations

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