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‘Secret’ moratorium on executions in M’sia must be made public

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is happy that Malaysia have in place a moratorium on executions, especially for those languishing on death row for drug trafficking. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Malaysia’s current Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) representative, was recently reported saying “...Malaysia’s moratorium, I understand, is only for drug trafficking cases’ (The Star, July 10, 2015).

It must be noted that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), also did reiterate on March 29, 2016 their recommendation that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty be put in place in Malaysia.

Madpet is of the opinion that this positive development should not be kept secret, but should have long been proudly announced by the Malaysian government. In fact, Nancy Shukri, the de facto Law Minister, should have proudly announced Malaysia’s moratorium on executions when she took the stage at the 6th World Congress Against Death Penalty in Malaysia.

At the said congress in Oslo, Norway on June 21, 2016, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department did state that Malaysia will soon be amending the laws to do away with the mandatory death penalty. Although, no time frame was mentioned, Madpet and others have called that these long overdue amendments be tabled at the upcoming sitting of Parliament in October 2016.

In November 2015, the same minister has said that the amendments would be tabled in the March 2016 sitting of Parliament.

Madpet urges Malaysia to extend the moratorium on executions to all persons on death row, not just those convicted for drug trafficking. This only makes sense, since Malaysia is now in the process of abolishing the death penalty, beginning with the mandatory death penalty.

In May 2016, Malaysia disclosed that there are 1,041 persons on death row. Based on the statistics revealed in 2011, when the number on death row was 696 (as Feb 22, 2011), 479 (69 percent) were for drug trafficking, 204 (29 percent) were for murder and 13 (2 percent) for illegal processions of arms. It looks like almost all that may be on death row are for mandatory death penalty offences.

There are at least 10 offences in Malaysian laws that carry the mandatory death penalty, whereby only three are for offences that result in the death of the victim - murder [Section 302 Penal Code], committing terrorist acts where the act results in death [Section 130C (1)(a) Penal Code]; and hostage taking where the act results in death [Section 374(a) Penal Code].

For all the other mandatory death penalty offences, death does not result, namely Drug Trafficking (Section 39B Dangerous Drugs Act 1952) and six types of offence listed in the Schedule of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, which includes robbery, kidnapping, extortion and house trespass.

The existence of the mandatory death penalty for offences that do not result in death, as in the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, only unnecessarily increase the risk of victims and/or witnesses to these crimes being killed by perpetrators to avoid the mandatory death penalty.

Global trend is towards abolition

Malaysia’s moratorium on execution will be most welcome by everyone including the international community, as it will be seen to be in compliance with the now five existing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions, the first in 2007 and the last being in 2014, that urged ‘a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty’.

Every time, these UNGA Resolutions have been tabled, the number of countries that have voted in favour have been increasing, demonstrating that the global trend is towards abolition.

Malaysia has every reason to be proud of the fact that they have been considering abolition, have in fact carried out serious studies which have now been concluded, and will be soon be taking the first step by abolishing the mandatory death penalty. Attorney-general Apandi Ali, also the public prosecutor, is also for the scraping of the mandatory death penalty, and he was reported saying in 2015, that the “...mandatory death sentences were a ‘paradox’, as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals...”

Madpet also urges Edmund Bon to emulate his predecessor, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, in publicly declaring his personal position for the abolition of the death penalty. AICHR representatives should also at the very least take a stand for the abolition of the death penalty in Asean, as had been done by Suhakam.

Madpet urges Malaysia to immediately extend the moratorium on executions to all, not just only for those convicted for drug trafficking.

Madpet urges that Malaysia tables in the upcoming sitting of the Malaysian Parliament in October 2016, amendments and/or legislations that will see the abolition of the mandatory death penalty; and

Madpet urges Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.

CHARLES HECTOR is coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

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