Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is appalled by the proposal by Karpal Singh, the chairperson of the DAP, calling for the amendment of the Penal Code to provide for death penalty for child rapists.
Human rights activists the world over and all justice-loving people have called for the abolition of the death penalty.
The Malaysian Bar, a body of more than 12,000 Malaysian lawyers, in March 2006, have adopted the position for the abolition of the death penalty. They have called for (1) Abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia; (2) An immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition; (3) Commutation of the sentences of all persons currently on death row; and (4) Ratification by Malaysia of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol.
It must also be pointed out that a television poll done by RTM2 during the ‘Hello on Two’ programme in 2006 showed that 64% of Malaysians are for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia. This programme has an estimated audience of 80,000. It is thus important that members of Parliament, the representatives of the people respond to the aspirations of Malaysians and remove the death penalty from the laws of Malaysia and not add new provisions prescribing for the death penalty.
There is a global trend for the abolition of the death penalty and more than two-thirds of the countries of the world have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
Resolution 2005/59 of the UN Human Rights Commission, calls for the total abolition of the death penalty, and for an immediate moratorium on all executions. This resolution was supported by the UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149 passed on 18/12/2007, where 104 countries voted in favour, 54 against and 29 abstained.
In 2008, the UN General Assembly passed another Resolution 63/168 which reaffirmed Resolution 62/149 welcoming the ‘the decisions taken by a growing number of states to apply a moratorium on executions and the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty’. Resolution 62/149 has 106 countries in favour, 46 against and 34 abstentions.
The US supports the trend towards abolition of the death penalty with increased abolition in most states. The US Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2009 outlaws federal executions and forbid the use of the death penalty as a sentence for violations of federal law.
The argument used by governments, including the Malaysian government, to justify the death penalty is that it deters serious crimes. Deputy minister M Kayveas, confirmed thus belief in Parliament in 2006) This statement cannot be supported by statistical proof.
There have been studies conducted worldwide over the past seventy years using various different methodological approaches that have failed to find convincing evidence that capital punishment is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment.
Studies conducted in Australia show that abolition of the death penalty had no effect on the homicide. Canadian statistics show that there is in fact ,a sharp decline in the homicide rate after abolition.
In the US over the past twenty years, states with the death penalty in general have had a higher homicide rate than states without the death penalty;
The UN itself noted in 1988, 1996, and 2002, ‘research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis.’
Further, there is always the risk that perpetrators of crimes that carry the death penalty would be more inclined to kill victims and witnesses to avoid the death sentence.
DAP, together with PKR and PAS form the opposition coalition known as Pakatan Rakyat. In the light of Karpal’s statement, it becomes important now, for these political parties to re-state their position on the death penalty.
Malaysia as a member of the UN and the Human Rights Council should abolish the death penalty. Karpal Singh should immediately withdraw his proposal to amend the Penal Code to impose the sentence of death on convicted child rapist.
Noting that Article 43 of the federal constitution, states that ‘…Ruler or Yang di- Pertua Negeri of a state has power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites in respect of all other offences committed in his state…’, it is proposed that the Pakatan Rakyat state governments should immediately commute all death sentences to prison terms, and in the interim a moratorium on all executions in their States.
Madpet reiterates its call for:
(1) An abolition of the death penalty;
(2) A moratorium on all executions pending abolition; and
(3) That all death sentences be commuted to prison terms.
The writer represent Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).