Bangladesh – 25,000 Arbitrary Detention, 200 Extrajudicial Killing since May 2018? Now, new death penalty law for drugs?

Since May, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina revamped her government’s war on drugs, an estimated 25,000 people have been arbitrarily imprisoned, and at least 200 have died in alleged shootouts.

Bangladesh’s arbitrary actions, including about 200 extrajudicial and ‘questionable’ killings all allegedly in the name of ‘war on drugs’ since May 2018 is condemned. Now, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet moves to table a Bill that impose the death penalty for drug offences …

Bangladesh to impose death penalty on drug dealers with an eye on the December election

The government plans tighter controls on drug trafficking. New bill seeks to stop the sale of ‘ya ba’, the mad drug. The real goal is to ensure the outgoing government’s victory in next December’s elections. Since mid-May more than 200 people have been killed in “encounter” with the police.

 

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved a draft law last Monday imposing the death penalty for drug offences. The official goal is to stop drug use and be tough on methamphetamine dealers.

Since mid-May, more than 200 people have been shot in the crackdown. Local sources expressed concern to AsiaNewsthat dealers and drug traffickers may be treated summarily.

Drug dealers “have died in what the authorities call ‘encounters’ with the police. Those who speak the truth, that these are real shootings, are accused of spreading false information. Police are rough and arrogant. People who have nothing to do with drugs are often involved in roundups.”

“Behind tougher controls, there is probably an attempt to protect the government ahead of the upcoming December elections.”

Human rights groups have criticised the government, comparing its actions to those of another Asian country, namely thePhilippines under Rodrigo Duterte, who is carrying out a brutal campaign against drug dealers.

Officially, the fight against drugs is designed to curb the sale of “ya ba”, a low-cost drug that combines methamphetamine and caffeine. Known as the mad drug, its causes hallucinations, euphoria, aggression and addiction.

Approximately 40 million pills were seized last year, but it is estimated that 250-300 million tablets are available on the Bangladesh market. The current maximum penalty for possession is 15 years in prison.

Local sources are amazed at the sheer numbers and report that “in the past, we never even heard about drugs. Now it seems that drugs have become the most urgent problem in the country.”

According to experts, the authorities should be more cautious in enforcing the law. For many, the real goal is to control the political debate ahead of the elections. As evidence of this, they cite the police Modus Operandi.

“Increasingly, false complaints are filed. When an opposition politician organises a rally, police prepare false charges of assault, arson, threats or possession of illegal weapons against a list of 25 real people, plus 200 unknowns. Some of these are abroad; others are home-bound paraplegics. This gets into the press. What is ridiculous is that these stories are printed even when rallies are not held.” – Asia News, 12/10/2018

 

bangladesh drug warRehman Asad/Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Bangladesh’s Deadly War on Drugs

While the death penalty for drugs has existed in Bangladesh for decades, it has rarely been used. This could change dramatically if Parliament approves a government bill that could subject people who use drugs and low-level dealers to the ultimate punishment.

LONDON – The audio quality is poor and the sound of gunshots muffled, but the agony in Ekramul Haque’s voice is unmistakable. On May 26, while speaking with his family by phone, Haque, an elected official in southern Bangladesh, was gunned down by police in an apparent extrajudicial killing.

Bangladeshi authorities insist Haque was a drug dealer who died in an exchange of gunfire, but the audio evidence – captured by his wife as she listened to her husband die – suggests that the officers involved killed him and then planted drugs at the scene. The recording casts a disturbing light on Bangladesh’s new drug-control strategy.

Since May, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina revamped her government’s war on drugs, an estimated 25,000 people have been arbitrarily imprisoned, and at least 200 have died in alleged shootouts. The parallels to President Rodrigo Duterte’sbrutal drug crackdown in the Philippines are chilling. There, human rights are routinely violated and more than 20,000 peoplehave been slaughtered since 2016. While Duterte’s campaign has drawn international condemnation, Hasina’s purge has been subject to less scrutiny.

The relative lack of international criticism seems to have emboldened the government to act even more ruthlessly. In early October, the authorities doubled down by proposing a draft law, which has now been submitted to Parliament, to expand the use of capital punishment for drug offenses. Under the proposal, possession of more than five grams of “yaba” – a methamphetamine-based drug targeted by the government’s crackdown – could be punishable by death.

While the death penalty for drugs has existed in Bangladesh for decades, it hasrarely been used. This could change dramatically if Parliament approves the government’s bill. The ferocity of the authorities’ anti-drug campaign, together with the extremely low threshold for yaba possession, means that even people who use drugs and low-level dealers could face execution.

Despite what governments claim, the death penalty for drug offenses does not target kingpins. It is the poor and the most vulnerable who suffer. This would certainly be the case in Bangladesh, where some Rohingya refugees – who have fled horrific persecution in neighboring Myanmar – rely on the drug trade for economic survival.

Moreover, there is simply no evidence that the death penalty for drug use lowers rates of consumption or trafficking. Almost 4,000 people have been executed for drug offenses in the past decade, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime admits that the drug market is still booming. Death penalty laws are little more than grotesque grandstanding by governments seeking to appear “tough” on drugs while blindly ignoring the facts.

Bangladesh’s legislation move would move the country to the extreme fringe of the international community and buck the global trend toward abolishing capital punishment. According to Harm Reduction International’s research, of the 33 countries that retain the death penalty for drug offenses, only a handful – mainly Saudi Arabia and China – actually carry out executions. Most other countries have changed tack.

For example, drug-related executions in Iran fell dramatically after judicial reforms late last year (although the country still applies the death penalty for other offenses). Meanwhile, Malaysia’s cabinet is considering a bill to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. If it passes, the measure would commute the sentences of the 1,267 people currently on death row in the country, including 900 convicted of drug-related crimes.

Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not alone in favoring extreme measures. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena recently said that his country would end a 42-year moratorium on executions and begin killing people convicted of drug crimes. While it is unclear if Sirisena will follow through, his threat is part of a worrying trend among populists who view the death penalty as a panacea for the drug trade. In a rambling speech earlier this year, US President Donald Trump suggested that he, too, supports such a policy.

The European Union has urged Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to reconsider their strategies, arguing that “the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrent to crime, and any error of judgment is impossible to correct.” These are wise words, and countries everywhere – especially EU member states – must do more to reinforce this view.

Bangladesh’s Parliament still has an opportunity to reject the draft law and move the country toward a more effective drug-control policy. Enacting the death penalty would only exacerbate an already deteriorating human-rights situation. Around the world, countries are recognizing that executions, much less extrajudicial killings, have no effect on the drug trade. Bangladesh must recognize this, too.

Singapore, Stop Execution of Malaysian Prabu N Pathmanathan

The family of 31-year-old Malaysian Prabu N Pathmanathan were informed last week he would be executed on Friday..Prabu, 31, had been sentenced to death for committing several acts preparatory to and for the purposes of trafficking in 227.82g of diamorphine or heroin into the island state on Dec 31, 2014.

Law Minister to appeal to S’pore to commute Malaysian’s death sentence

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Liew Vui Keong will write a letter to the Singapore government to urge it to commute the death sentence of a Malaysian man who is scheduled to be executed on Friday (Oct 26).

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said he hoped that Singapore would commute Prabu Pathmanathan’s sentence to life imprisonment.

Prabu, 31, had been sentenced to death for committing several acts preparatory to and for the purposes of trafficking in 227.82g of diamorphine or heroin into the island state on Dec 31, 2014.

“It will be a sad day. I hope they don’t do it,” he told reporters on Wednesday (Oct 24) when asked what would happen if Singapore went ahead with the execution.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lawyers for Liberty advisor N. Surendran urged Putrajaya to make “urgent and strenuous” efforts to save Prabu from the gallows.

Surendran said Prabu’s family had been informed that the execution would be held at Changi Prison on Friday for alleged drug trafficking.

“The family was only informed of the Friday hanging on Oct 20 via a letter from the Singapore Prison Services, which is less than one week’s notice.

“In the same chilling letter, the family was asked to make the ‘necessary funeral arrangements’,” Surendran said.

 

According to Surendran, there were doubts surrounding Prabu’s conviction, adding that the drugs was found in a vehicle driven by another person, and not Prabu.

He also claimed that the confessions obtained from Prabu by the prosecution for the trial were made under duress.

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign also called for the Singapore government to halt the execution of Prabu.

“Not only is it irreversible once an execution takes place, it also creates another set of victims – the loved ones of the executed,” it said in a statement.

On Oct 15, Liew had announced that the Malaysian government would go ahead with plans to completely abolish the death penalty in this country. – Star, 24/10/2018

Human rights groups urge Singapore to halt imminent executions

City-state expected to execute two men, including a Malaysian, following convictions for drug offences.

View through a vehicle window shows cell blocks inside Singapore's Changi Prison [Vivek Prakash/Reuters]
View through a vehicle window shows cell blocks inside Singapore’s Changi Prison [Vivek Prakash/Reuters]

Singapore is being urged to halt the planned execution on Friday of two men convicted of drug-related offences amid reports four people were hanged in the city-state in the past three weeks.

The family of 31-year-old Malaysian Prabu N Pathmanathan were informed last week he would be executed on Friday, human rights groups said. Another man is also scheduled to hang but has not been named.

“Singapore authorities must immediately halt plans to kill these men and put a stop to this recent wave of callous executions,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Singapore researcher, said in a statement.

Singapore reportedly hanged a man on Wednesday and three others on October 5 also for drug-related offences, the group said.

Lawyers for Liberty, a Kuala Lumpur-based legal firm that specialises in human rights cases, urged the Malaysian government to intervene to stop the hanging.

Executions are usually carried out at dawn at Changi Prison.

“The death penalty is cruel and inhuman and particularly so when used in drugs cases, which results in the execution of drug mules from poor socio-economic backgrounds,” the firm’s N Surendran said in a statement.

‘Barbarity’

Admitting time was “running out”, Surendran and Prabu’s mother and sister delivered an appeal for clemency to Singapore’s president, Halimah Yacob, on Thursday.

“Malaysia has recognised the barbarity of the death penalty and has recently announced its total abolition. Having taken that position, the Malaysian government must do everything possible to save citizens abroad who are facing execution,” it said.

Malaysia’s government that was elected in May has suspended executions and announced its intention to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong said he would write to the Singapore government to request Prabu’s death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment, local media reported on Thursday. Prabu was sentenced to death in relation to the trafficking of 228kg of heroin into the island state at the end of 2014.

“It is time for Singapore to re-establish its moratorium on the death penalty and follow the government of Malaysia’s example,” Amnesty’s Chhoa-Howard said.

Amnesty said it believes Singapore has carried out six executions this year, all in relation to drug-offences. It said there were eight executions last year. Singapore does not publicly disclose information about its use of the death penalty.

Capital punishment was imposed or implemented for drug-related offences in 15 countries last year, but executions for such crimes were recorded in only four – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

One-hundred and six countries across the world have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. – Al Jazeera, 25/10/2018

Malaysia:- Decision made to Abolish the Death Penalty

Malaysia has just announced that the Cabinet has decided to abolish the Death Penalty, and the Bills to give effect to this decision will be tabled in the upcoming Parliamentary session beginning 15 October 2018.

 

Media Statement – 11/10/2018

MADPET welcomes Malaysian Cabinet Decision to Abolish the Death Penalty

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) welcomes the announcement that the Malaysian Cabinet has finally decided to abolish the death penalty, and that the needed Bill will be tabled at the next Parliamentary session, now scheduled to begin on 15/10/2018.

In the evening of 10 October 2018, the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, it was reported in the media thatThe Cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty, and it will be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, which will begin on October 15, said Datuk Liew Vui Keong.The minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department said while the government is studying certain cases, as of now, all executions have been halted.“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop….’(Malay Mail, 10/10/2018)

With regard persons currently on death row ‘…the Pardons Board will be tasked with looking into the applications of death row inmates. “Our view is that executions should not be carried out we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them…’ (Malay Mail, 10/10/2018)

This will certainly be good news for the spouses, children and relatives of the about 1,267 people on death row or 2.7% of the prison population of about 60,000 people.(Star, 28/6/2018). Their parent and/or relative will no longer be hanged to death and will live.

Whilst the announcement of the cabinet decision by the Minister is most welcome, in Malaysia, one will have to wait until the needed Bills are tabled in Parliament, become law and then put into force, hopefully by the end of 2018. Malaysians have been subjected by similar promises and/or assurances by Ministers in the past government, only to be later disappointed.

As such, it is our hope that the said Bills that will effectively abolish the death penalty will be tabled at the upcoming Parliamentary session, at the very least for the First Reading, if there be no time for it to be debated and passed.

MADPET hopes that Members of Parliament and Senators from the Opposition parties will fully support the just move to abolish the death penalty.

MADPET await the day when we can finally celebrate the abolition of the death penalty in law, and there will be no more death row in Malaysia.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of MADPET

Note:-

  • Malay Mail, 10/10/2018 – Minister: Putrajaya to abolish death penalty [https://www.malaymail.com/s/1681448/minister-putrajaya-to-abolish-death-penalty]
  • The Business Times, 10/10/2018 – Malaysia To Abolish Death Penalty [https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/malaysia-to-abolish-death-penalty]

‘Don’t block death penalty abolition’ – NGO tells opposition MPs and senators

Published: Today 11:38 am  |  Modified: Today 1:44 pm

 

The Malaysian Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) has called on the opposition and BN-controlled Dewan Negara to support Putrajaya’s plan to abolish the death penalty.

Madpet spokesperson Charles Hector said the cabinet decision to abolish the death penalty yesterday was good news for some 1,267 people facing death row.

“Madpet hopes the MPs and senators from the opposition parties will fully support the just move to abolish the death penalty,” he said in a statement today.

Hector added that Madpet hoped Putrajaya will follow through with its decision, pointing out that the previous BN government had also made similar indications which never materialised.

The BN-controlled Dewan Negara had previously blocked the abolition of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 after the Dewan Rakyat approved its repeal.

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Gurdial Singh Nijar said the decision was “historic” and a fulfilment of Pakatan Harapan government’s manifesto.

“A death penalty is irreversible. There have been cases where the wrong people have been sentenced to death for a variety of reasons – including poor quality of defence. Thus, innocent lives are put at risk.

“Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the US in 1976, 138 innocent men and women have been released from death row, including some who came within minutes of execution. No such research has been conducted in Malaysia,” he said in a separate statement.

Gurdial acknowledged that the families of murder victims suffer a great sense of loss and are traumatised but stressed that the execution of another does not help them heal nor does it end their pain.

“Perhaps there are other ways the state can help such families, especially those of murder victims – such as the provision of funds now being used for the costly process of executions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty advisor N Surendran lauded Putrajaya’s decision as “remarkable”.

However, he added that the government should also fight for Malaysian citizens facing the death sentence abroad.

“At this moment, let us also not forget the many hundreds of Malaysians who are languishing on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules.

“A large number of Malaysians are awaiting execution just across the causeway in Singapore, mainly for drug offences,” he said in a statement.

One such example, Surendran said, was the execution of S Prabagaran (photo) in Singapore last year.

“The BN government did nothing to save him… I, myself, as his lawyer was in communication with then deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who personally assured me that he would help save Prabagaran.

“But in the end, Zahid was no help at all. Neither he nor the BN government said or did anything serious to stop the execution.

“We call upon the government to vigorously speak up for our citizens facing death in distant shores. Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad,” he said. – Malaysiakini, 11/10/2018

GAMBAR fail, Yang Dipertua Dewan Negara, Tan Sri S A Vigneswaran. – Foto Sairien Nafis

Hukuman mati: MP pembangkang, senator usah sabotaj pula

Oleh Luqman Arif Abdul Karim

cnews@nstp.com.my

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Hasrat kerajaan untuk menghapuskan pelaksanaan hukuman mati mandatori bersandarkan prinsip kemanusiaan diharap tidak disabotaj pembangkang yang ketika ini mempelopori kuasa Dewan Negara.

 

Jurucakap Malaysia Menentang Hukuman Mati dan Penyeksaan (MADPET), Charles Hector Fernandez, ketika menyuarakan pendirian itu berkata janji atau jaminan sama pernah diusulkan pentadbiran terdahulu, namun ia akhirnya mengundang kekecewaan dalam kalangan masyarakat dan aktivis apabila gagal ditepati.

Sehubungan itu, katanya, MADPET berharap ahli Parlimen dan Senator daripada blok pembangkang akan memberikan sokongan penuh terhadap keputusan yang adil oleh kerajaan ketika membentangkan usul untuk menghapuskan hukuman mati mandatori.

“Oleh itu, kami harap usul menghapuskan hukuman mati mandatori ini dibentangkan pada sidang Parlimen akan datang, mulai 15 Oktober ini, sekurang-kurangnya untuk bacaan kali pertama sekiranya tiada masa mencukupi bagi perbahasan dan diluluskan,” katanya dalam kenyataan, hari ini.

Persidangan Dewan Negara, pada 12 September lalu, melakar kejutan apabila menolak Rang Undang-Undang Antiberita Tidak Benar (Pemansuhan) 2018 yang sebelum itu diluluskan di Dewan Rakyat pada 16 Ogos lalu selepas bacaan kali ketiga.

Perkara itu diumumkan Yang Dipertua Dewan Negara, Tan Sri S A Vigneswaran, selepas undi belah bahagian menyaksikan 28 anggota dewan tidak menyokong pemansuhan akta itu berbanding 21 yang menyokong, manakala tiga yang lain memilih untuk tidak mengundi.

Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, semalam dilaporkan berkata pelaksanaan hukuman mati mandatori bagi semua kesalahan akan dimansuhkan di negara ini.

Susulan pengumuman itu, katanya, semua pelaksanaan hukuman mati akan ditangguhkan sehingga pemansuhan berkenaan berkuat kuasa.

Mengulas lanjut, Fernandez menyifatkan pengumuman itu ialah khabar gembira untuk waris dan ahli keluarga kira-kira 1,267 banduan yang ketika ini menanti hukuman mati mandatori.

“Perangkaan yang mewakili 2.7 peratus daripada keseluruhan 60,000 banduan ini akhirnya tidak akan digantung, justeru ahli keluarga dan ibu bapanya berupaya menarik nafas lega kerana mereka masih diberikan peluang untuk meneruskan hidup. – Berita Harian, 11/10/2018

Next, save Malaysians sentenced to death abroad, Putrajaya told

Published 1 hour ago on 11 October 2018

By Zurairi AR

Surendran reminded the Pakatan Harapan government that many citizens are awaiting execution in other countries, including in Singapore, mainly for drug offences. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Civil group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) urged today the federal government to rescue Malaysians on death row abroad after announcing its plan to abolish capital punishment.

LFL adviser N. Surendran praised the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government for its move to table an abolition of laws providing for the death penalty in the next Dewan Rakyat sitting, but said many citizens are awaiting execution in other countries, including just across the Causeway in Singapore, mainly for drug offences.

“At this moment, let us also not forget the many hundreds of Malaysians who are languishing on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules,” the lawyer said in a statement.

In July last year, S. Prabagaran was hanged in Singapore after he was convicted of drug trafficking, despite calls from the United Nations and others to suspend his execution.

“Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad,” Surendran said, adding that this must be a priority for the Foreign Ministry and Putrajaya.

The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) said today that the decision to abolish the death penalty infuses Malaysia’s criminal justice system with values that “upholds life and proves its love for its citizenry — no matter how and where and when they have gone wrong”.

Hakam president Gurdial Singh Nijar pointed out that the death penalty is irreversible, putting innocent lives at risk, and abolishing it would relieve judges and the State from deciding on someone’s life.

Gurdial also said that a life sentence with opportunity of parole would provide an opportunity for rehabilitation, and the funds now used for executions can better be used to help families of victims, especially those of the crime of murder.

However, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) has warned Putrajaya against disappointing Malaysians in enacting the decision, hoping that the Bill will be tabled at least for the first reading at the next immediate session.

“Madpet hopes that MP and Senators from the Opposition parties will fully support the just move to abolish the death penalty,” said its spokesman Charles Hector.

Yesterday, de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said while the government is studying certain cases, as of now, all executions have been halted.

It has been reported that a total of 1,267 prisoners are on death row, while 35 have been executed in the last decade.- Malay Mail, 11/10/2018

See also:-

MADPET welcomes Malaysian Cabinet Decision to Abolish the Death Penalty

MADPET – PH Government need make good promise to abolish ‘Mandatory Death by Hanging in all Acts’(statement issued on 10/10/2018, before the announcement of cabinet decision to abolish death penalty)

Minister: Putrajaya to abolish death penalty

Published 10 hours ago on 10 October 2018

By Ida Nadirah Ibrahim

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, gives a speech during the ‘Law Reform Talk’ in Universiti Malaya October 10, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PETALING JAYA, Oct 10 — The Cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty, and it will be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, which will begin on October 15, said Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

The minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department said while the government is studying certain cases, as of now, all executions have been halted.

“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop.

“We are studying certain issues… we need to look into it and hear the views of all, but as it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty,” he told the media after the “Law Reform Talk” at Universiti Malaya here, today.

Liew said that with Putrajaya intending to abolish the death penalty, the Pardons Board will be tasked with looking into the applications of death row inmates.

“Our view is that executions should not be carried out we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them.

“When commuted, they would have to face life imprisonment because there had been several deaths that were caused by the offender and so they were sentenced to death by the court,” he said.

Liew added that all the paperwork for the abolishment of the law is in its final stages, and that the Attorney General (AG) had given the green light for it to be tabled in Parliament.

“All the papers are in the final stage. The AG has also indicated to us that it is ready to be tabled, hopefully in this (Parliamentary) session,” he said.

Earlier in his opening speech, Liew said the Pakatan Harapan government is also mulling a repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 and other draconian laws. – Malay Mail, 10/10/2018