Malaysia – Wrong for a Possibly ‘Tainted’ Federal Court Panel to Uphold Death Penalty of Lahad Datu 9

** a media statement by an ADPAN member, not reflective of the position of ADPAN on the matter..

*There is an ongoing challenge about the constitutionality of the extension and-reappointment of the Chief Justice  and also the President of the Court of Appeal, whose tenure would have ended when they reached the age of 66 years and 6 months. As such, should be hearing and deciding on appeals …?

Media Statement – 16/1/2018

Wrong for a Possibly ‘Tainted’ Federal Court Panel to Uphold

Death Penalty of Lahad Datu 9

 

Abolish Death Penalty in Malaysia

 

 

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed that the Federal Court , on 15/1/2018(Malaysiakini – Bernama Report 15/1/2018), decided to uphold the Court of Appeal decision to sentence to death the 9 Filipino men for waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in relation to the Lahad Datu intrusion about four years ago. The Court of Appeal, earlier on February 2017, overturned the natural life sentence meted out by the Kota Kinabalu High Court on July 26 2016 on these 9 men, and sentenced them to death.

 

 

Md Raus Sharif continuing to be Federal Court judge and Chief Justice when being challenged in court

 

MADPET is also shocked that Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif chaired this Federal Court 5-judge panel who heard and decided on this appeal. The validity of CJ Md Raus Sharif continuing to be a Federal Court Judge and Chief Justice past 3/8/2017, the day his term in office came to an end when he achieved the age of 66 years and 6 months is currently being challenged in court by amongst others, the Malaysian Bar, as being unconstitutional(Malay Mail, 17/10/2017).

 

As such, MADPET is of the view that he should have not sat in any panel of the Federal Court and decide on any cases until this matter is finally resolved by the courts. If the courts, later decides, that his extended appointment as Federal Court Judge and/or Chief Justice is unconstitutional, null and void, then all decisions of the Federal Court in which he was part of will reasonably be considered invalid.

 

MADPET is also of the opinion that when CJ Md Raus Sharif appointment was extended beyond his last date in office, was also a violation of the principle of security of tenure, which is a safeguard to guarantee independence of the judiciary. If the term of judges, can be extended beyond the fixed retirement age by the actions of the Prime Minister, the King and/or some other, the very intention behind the security of tenure principle is violated.

 

 

Lahad Datu Incursion 11/2/2013 – 11/3/2013

 

This Lahad Datu case is in connection with what happened in February-March 2013, when a group, comprising over a hundred people, who were allegedly followers of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III entered Sabah allegedly on a mission to ‘reclaim’ part of Borneo as their ancestral land. The Lahad Datu situation reportedly saw a total of 68 deaths – 56 from the Sulu sultanate, nine from the Malaysian authorities and six civilians.(Astro Awani, 30/12/2013)

 

 

At the High Court in 2016, the court of first instance where the trial was conducted, Judge Stephen Chung, at the Kota Kinabalu High Court, after hearing the case, having the benefit of hearing the witnesses and considering the evidence elected to not sentence the 9 to death, but to life imprisonment.

 

 

‘…In his judgment, Chung said there was no evidence that the accused were directly involved in the skirmishes that occurred during the intrusion, nor was there proof that they had killed any member of the security force in cold blood or injured anybody. He noted that the key persons in the intrusion, such as Datu Agbimuddin Kiram and ‘General Musa’ were not brought to justice. “It is indeed an odious task to pass the appropriate sentence for the accused convicted under Section 121 of the Penal Code. “The offence had badly affected the lives of the residents of Kampung Tanduo and those who resided in the nearby villages, as well as the families of the deceased security personnel,” he said…’(Malaysian Digest/Bernama 26/7/2016). The said 9 persons were as such sentenced not to death, but to life imprisonment by the High Court.

 

 

It was also reported that the lawyer representing these accused persons that pleaded guilty also ‘told the court that his clients had been promised jobs and identity cards by their leader, General Musa, the chief of staff of Datu Agbimuddin Kiram who was a brother of the self-styled Sulu Sultan.’ (Star, 24/2/2016). It was also reported that ‘although they admitted to being members of a terror group known as the Royal Sulu Force (RSF), they were not involved in its militant activities. He said this was consistent with their statements recorded individually before a Sessions Court judge in Lahad Datu shortly after their arrests sometime in March 2013…’

 

 

As such, MADPET is of the opinion that these 9 persons were certainly not deserving of the death penalty.

 

 

‘Prisoner of War’ or ordinary criminals?

 

 

Further, a perusal of the history and background of the whole conflict, as reported in the media, questions arise as to whether this should have been considered to be a ‘war’, and, if so, whether it is proper in such cases to sentence ‘prisoners of war’ to death.

 

 

This seems to be not a simple case of a group of criminals ‘waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King)’. It was reported also that the reason for the incursion was for the purpose of ‘reclaiming’ part of Borneo as their ancestral land, that they claimed belonged to the Sulu Sultanate that was ‘….seized by the British from their government.. ‘. It was also reported in the media that Malaysia had been paying annual sums to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, which was considered by them as ‘rent’.(Astro Awani, 30/12/2013). Determining finally the very nature of that intrusion that lasted about a month(11/2/2013 – 11/3/2013), is material in determining whether the arrested(or the captured) were prisoners of war or simple criminals.

 

 

As such, MADPET urges that a moratorium on execution be imposed for these 9 persons, and that it be best that their death sentence be commuted to imprisonment;

 

MADPET also urges that the Sabah dispute concerning the Sulu Sultanate and Malaysia be finally resolved;

 

MADPET also calls on Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif to not be part of any Federal Court panel deciding on any cases, especially death penalty cases, until the question of the validity of his position as Federal Court Judge and Chief Justice beyond 3/8/2017 is finally resolved;

 

MADPET reiterates the call for Malaysia to impose a moratorium on all executions, commute all death sentences and abolish the death penalty in Malaysia.

 

 

Charles Hector

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

>>>>

 

See also earlier statement of MADPET

 

MADPET – Commute death sentence on Lahad Datu 9 to life (FMT News)

MADPET DISAPPOINTED WITH THE COURT OF APPEAL DECISION TO SENTENCE 9 TO DEATH OVERTURNING HIGH COURT’S LIFE IMPRISONMENT SENTENCE IN THE LAHAD DATU WAGING WAR CASE

See also Media Report about what happened in Lahad Datu

Berita Malaysia

Lahad Datu invasion: A painful memory of 2013

Najiah Najib | December 30, 2013 06:53 MYT

KUALA LUMPUR: On Feb 11, 2013, the nation was rocked by news that broke late into the night about the eastern shores of Sabah being invaded by a group of armed men.

The group, comprising over a hundred people, was quickly identified to be followers of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III. They were led by Jamalul’s brother Agbimuddin Kiram.

Hailing from Pulau Simunul of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines, the group first entered Malaysian waters by boat on Feb 9 and gathered in stages at Felda Sahabat 17 in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, as a means of ‘reclaiming’ part of Borneo as their ancestral land. This forced some eighty locals to flee from 15 homes.

Upon being discovered by fishermen, the Filipino rebels broke into smaller groups and entered several locations in the village, including Kampung Sungai Bakau.

On Feb 14, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the Malaysian government would negotiate with the group before ousting them from the area. Then Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said negotiations with the group were in progress to find the best solution without bloodshed.

Two days later, then Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein made a statement that played down the situation; the group merely comprised ‘malnourished’ and elderly men in sarongs and slippers, mostly unarmed, he said.

The tussle between Malaysia and the Philippines over Sabah had been a long-standing one. The Suluks wanted Sabah to be returned to them, claiming it was seized by the British from their government. But Malaysia had always rejected the Philippine’s territorial claim to Sabah as it deemed that Sabah residents had exercised their right to self-determination when they voted to join the Malaysian federation in 1963.

The Sulu sultanate also lost their rights in the Madrid protocol of 1885 when their predecessors Spain relinquished all their claims to Sabah, giving all control to Malaysia’s predecessors, the British.

However, it was subsequently learnt that the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines were issuing cheques for RM5,300 to the legal counsel of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu in keeping with the terms of an 1887 agreement. While Malaysia considered it as annual cession payment for the disputed state, the sultan’s descendants considered it as “rent”.

Many then called for the Malaysian government to reduce or stop the cession payment altogether, including former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and opposition lawyer Karpal Singh.
The first shootout between Malaysian security forces and the small group of Filipino rebels broke out on March 1 when the latter tried to break a police blockade in Kampung Tanduo. Najib confirmed that the event had left two police commandos dead while Sabah police commissioner, Datuk Hamza Taib, confirmed that 12 of Kiram’s followers were killed.

At this juncture, the Philippines government seemed to totally leave the fate of the royal Sulu army in the hands of the Malaysian security forces.

In the early hours of March 3, a group of Filipino gunmen, believed to be less than 10, ambushed the police in a village in Semporna, Sabah. The media reported that six Malaysian police officers and seven assailants were killed. It was also reported that four of the policemen had their bodies mutilated, with one beheaded.

On March 5, three F-18 and five Hawk aircraft filled the Kampung Tanduo skies in an airstrike against the Filipino rebels at dawn in an effort to flush them out. Thirteen of the Sulu gunmen were killed in the process. The deaths were confirmed by then Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Codenamed Ops Daulat, the ‘mopping up’ stage also saw ground troops going door-to-door to sniff out the intruders. However, none were caught.

Kampung Tanduo was finally secured by Malaysian forces on March 11, with the bodies of 22 Sulu gunmen recovered. Despite the deaths, the Kiram family insisted that its army stay put in Sabah and not surrender.

Between March 20 and April 1, 15 Filipino nationals were charged in court over the incursion – eight of them in the Tawau High Court while the rest in the Lahad Datu Magistrate’s Court.
A Malaysian Special Branch officer, Corporal Hassa Ali Basari, was also charged and convicted for intentionally refraining from disclosing information on terrorist acts by the Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu.

Ops Daulat ended on June 29 when it was replaced by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM). The body is now responsible for security arrangements in the area, covering all operations from northern Kudat to south-eastern Tawau. This is to ensure that Sabah’s eastern sea borders remain safe. A 24-hour ESSCOM operations room was also announced on Aug 12.

The Lahad Datu standoff reportedly saw a total of 68 deaths – 56 from the Sulu sultanate, nine from the Malaysian authorities and six civilians.- Astro Awani, 30/12/2013

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