Friday, March 25, 2016

3 men were executed on Good Friday(25/3/2016)? Most disappointing when Malaysia on verge of abolishing mandatory death penalty?

Malaysia hangs three men for murder in 'secretive' execution

Rights groups criticise government for giving the men’s families only two days notice of the hangings
Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, one of the men hanged on Friday in an execution condemned by Amnesty International.
Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, one of the men hanged on Friday in an execution condemned by Amnesty International. Photograph: Handout
Malaysia has executed three men for murder, their lawyer said, in what rights groups called a “secretive” hanging in which the men’s families were given only two days notice.

“The execution was done between 4:30 and 5:30 this morning,” lawyer Palaya Rengaiah told the Guardian. “They were hanged to death.”

Rengaiah said the families received a letter two days before the execution, advising them to make a last visit to the men and funeral arrangements. He said the men were told on Thursday that they would be hanged on Friday.

Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, 35, Ramesh Jayakumar, 34, and his brother Sasivarnam Jayakumar, 37, were sentenced to the gallows after they were found guilty by the high court of murdering a 25-year-old man in a playground in 2005.

The trio claimed during court sessions that they were acting in self-defence after being attacked by a group that included the victim.

The Malaysian prison’s department said there were currently more than 1,000 inmates awaiting execution, although none had been killed since 2013, according to Death Penalty Worldwide.

Amnesty International has condemned what it called a “last-minute” execution of the men accused of murder, an offence that carries a mandatory death sentence.

In Malaysia, information on scheduled hangings are not made public before, or sometimes after, they are carried out – a practice Amnesty said was “secretive” and contrary to international standards on the use of the death penalty.

Several high-level officials have spoken against mandatory death sentences in Malaysia, a decades-old law that is also imposed on serious drug, treason and firearms offences. 

These voices include the attorney-general, Apandi Ali, who said in November that he would propose to the cabinet that the penalty be scrapped, calling it a “paradox” as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

“If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison,” he said.

Days after, government minister Nancy Shukri, said she hoped to amend the penal code to abolish the death sentence.

“It is not easy to amend, but we are working on it. I hope to table it next year in March,” Shukri told reporters, adding that the punishment had done little to reduce the number of crimes committed. The motion has not been put to parliament.

Charles Hector, coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, on Thursday called for the Sultan of Kedah and the Sultan of Perak, state royalty in the two regions where the men were on death row, to use their power to stop the hangings.

He also urged Skukri, who is the de facto law minister, and the attorney-general, to obtain a stay of execution.

The Guardian was unable immediately to reach the government for comment.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy campaign director for south-east Asia and the Pacific, said ahead of the execution that “as discussions on abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia continue, the Malaysian government must immediately put in place a moratorium on all executions as a first step towards full abolition of the death penalty”.- The Guardian, 25/3/2016

Press Release | Halt the Execution of Gunasegar s/o Pitchaymuthu, J Ramesh s/o Jayakumar, and Sasivarnam s/o Jayakumar, and Abolish the Mandatory Death Penalty PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2016 03:58pm
ImageThe Malaysian Bar is extremely troubled over the reports of the imminent carrying out of the death sentence upon Gunasegar s/o Pitchaymuthu, J Ramesh s/o Jayakumar, and Sasivarnam s/o Jayakumar.  Their next-of-kin have been informed to schedule their final visit with them today, and to discuss the arrangements for burial.  The executions could be carried out as early as tomorrow, possibly at Taiping Prison.  This appears to be consistent with the practice of executing death row inmates early on a Friday morning.  

All three of these death row prisoners were convicted under section 302, read with section 34, of the Penal Code, and their convictions were upheld by the Federal Court on 19 February 2014.  At the time of writing, we have no information as to whether applications for pardon were made for them or on their behalf.
Since 2010, the Malaysian Government has announced its willingness to review the mandatory death penalty, with a view to its possible abolition or the reintroduction of a discretionary death penalty. More recently, in 2015, both the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law and the Attorney General have spoken of the Government’s intention to introduce legislation in Parliament to cease the use of the mandatory death penalty. While this laudable initiative appears to have been in the context of the mandatory death sentence for those convicted of drug-related offences, the Malaysian Bar is of the view that the death penalty should be abolished irrespective of the crime that may have been committed.  

The decision on the punishment for offences should be left to the discretion of the Judiciary.  The death penalty has no place in a society that values human life, justice and mercy.  Persons sentenced with the mandatory death penalty should be resentenced to imprisonment. 

In light of the impending review of the mandatory death penalty, the Government should, in the interest of justice, declare and implement an immediate official moratorium on any and all executions. All death sentences should be stayed pending the results of the review.  It is unfair and unjust to carry out the death sentence when there is currently a possibility of reform which, if put into effect, should apply retrospectively.

The Malaysian Bar therefore calls on the Malaysian Government to immediately halt the impending execution of Gunasegar s/o Pitchaymuthu, J Ramesh s/o Jayakumar, and Sasivarnam s/o Jayakumar.  

Steven Thiru
Malaysian Bar

24 March 2016
Media Statement – 24/3/2016

MADPET calls for stop of possible ‘Good Friday’ execution of  Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is shocked to hear that Malaysia may be executing 34 year old Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, possibly on Good Friday(25/3/2016). In a letter from the from the Taiping Prison’s Department, received by the family on Wednesday, it was stated that that they should visit him for the last time as he would be executed “soon”. The family was also advised to discuss arrangements to claim Gunasegar’s body for his funeral. (Star, 24/3/2016). The letter provided no date or time for execution, but it was reported that executions in Malaysia usually happen on Friday morning.

Malaysia is in the process of considering the abolition of the death penalty, starting possibly with the abolition of the mandatory death penalty. Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and also the de facto Law Minister, was reported stating that the proposal to amend laws to abolish the mandatory death sentence may be tabled in Parliament as early as March next year[2016].(Malay Mail, 17/11/2015).

Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali also did commit to propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped (Malaysian Insider, 13/11/2015). Appandi Ali, who is also the Public Prosecutor, said that ‘…mandatory death sentences were a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals….’ “If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison. “Then we’re working towards a good administration of criminal justice,”.

As such, Malaysia should not be executing anyone at this time, especially persons who are victims of the Mandatory Death Penalty. Gunasegar was convicted of murder, and that carries the mandatory death penalty. He was on death row for his role in the murder of B. Venukumar on April 4, 2005, which means that he was merely 23 years old when the alleged crime was committed.

It must be noted that ‘…In court documents sighted by The Star, Gunasegar  was charged, together with J. Ramesh and J. Sasivarnam, with murdering Venukumar at a playground in Taman Ria Raya, Sungai Petani,Kedah. Though the trio claimed during the trial that they had been attacked by a group, which included Venukumar and only defended themselves, the High Court found them guilty in 2011...’(Star, 24/3/2016).

It must be noted that even if one is represented by a lawyer, lawyer errors at the court of first instance, can lead to injustice being done, and the possibility that an innocent man be send to his death. If evidence was not challenged, or not adduced at the court of first instance, it is extremely difficult to introduce relevant evidence later at the appellate stage.

We recall also the case where an innocent man was wrongly executed, whereby in January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously. We recall the words of Former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah who said,  “The law is the law but I wish Parliament would abolish the death sentence because if a mistake is made, it would be irreversible. There are other ways of dealing with heinous crimes.”

MADPET calls on  Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan of Kedah and/or Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan of Perak, to intervene and stopped this hanging, as was done by Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan of Johor in 2014 who saved Chandran s/o Paskaran from being hanged. The crime was committed in Kedah, whilst Gunasegar is being imprisoned in Perak, and in all likelihood execution will be carried out also in Perak.

MADPET also calls Nancy Shukri, the de facto law Minister, and  the Attorney General, to act and obtain  a stay of execution as they did before in the case of. Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Philip Michael)in 2014.

On December 18, 2014, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) reaffirmed for the fifth time since 2007 the call for a stop of all executions. In 2014, 117 nation States voted in favour, 38 against, 34 abstention with  4 absentees. Every time the said resolution had been adopted, the number of votes in favour has been increasing. The global trend continues to be for abolition.

The call for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia has been made by many individuals, bodies and civil society organisations including Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), Malaysian Bar and MADPET.

MADPET prays the  planned execution of  Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu be stopped, and that his sentence be commuted.

MADPET also calls for a moratorium on all executions pending abolition, and also for the commutation of sentence of all persons on death row, whereby in October 2015, the number on death row as disclosed was about 1,022.

MADPET also calls on Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.

Charles Hector
For and on behalf of
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

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