ADPAN – On the World Day Against the Death Penalty October 10, 2018

Press Statement
On the World Day Against the Death Penalty
October 10, 2018

On 10 October each year, the international community reflects on the death penalty and its futility.

This year, we also reflect on the terrible and cruel physical conditions most death penalty prisoners are forced to suffer. All prisoners on death row share the same psychological torment, as they await an unnecessary and brutal death at a pre-arranged hour, whether soon or an unknown number of days or years away.

On this World Day Against the Death Penalty, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN, a network of organizations and individuals aiming for the abolition of the Death Penalty) reaffirms its strong and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and for all cases. ADPAN considers the death penalty incompatible with human dignity.  The international research shows that the death penalty does not have any proven deterrent effect.  Whether used against prisoners who are powerless and poor, minorities who are marginalized, or political enemies, the death penalty brutalizes and diminishes each society which employs it.

On this day of the year, we call on the retentionist States who still regularly execute, to immediately put in place a moratorium, and to abandon this futile and cruel relic of history.

All too often, conditions for prisoners facing execution are cruel and harsh. Conditions vary around the world, but in some places, cruelties range from torture to overcrowding in filthy conditions to denial of basic rights such as regular access to lawyers or family, to being detained without hope for long periods, all too often in cramped, excessively hot or cold and inhuman conditions.

Systemic problems vary around the world, but these terrible prison conditions are too often accompanied by trials which have been unfair, in justice systems in urgent need of reform.

In Asia, there has been mixed development in the abolition movement in the last 12 months. On the one hand, we have seen the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act in Malaysia, which the government then described as a “baby step” towards abolition. In this amendment, the presiding judge is given some discretion to impose imprisonment rather than death on a convicted drug trafficking offender if certain conditions are proven. Nevertheless, whether this amendment will save lives is yet to be seen. Indonesia is also undergoing a review of its Criminal Code where, if passed, the death penalty will no longer be a primary sentence. Korea is affirming its commitment to abolition, while Cambodia has resisted a call to reintroduce the death penalty.

On the other hand, there was also a steep increase in executions in this region. Earlier this year, Japan executed 13 people within a short span of time; Thailand executed 1 person after 9 years of moratorium; Taiwan executed 1 person without much warning; we have information that Singapore recently executed 3 people; not to mention the many executions in China and Vietnam which are so often done in secret. The Philippines is threatening to bring back the death penalty, only a delayed Senate vote is holding back the floodgates; so too, Mongolia is debating reverting back to executions.

In Pakistan, executions through special and military courts and trials have been carried out, in the face of criticism of the courts’ failures to adhere to their guarantees of fair trial and due process. In India, despite extraordinary delays and other systemic problems within the justice system, there has been a rush to calling for more and more executions, in the face of child and other rape cases. In Bangladesh, there has been an increase on death penalty conviction in recent years, totally as at September 2018, 1680 people on death row.

What these occasional executions and clamor for executions all too often show is that the death penalty is used as a tool for some other undisclosed political purpose.

However, we also note that there has been an increase in discourse and dialogue on this issue within society and among policymakers, which we view as most desirable and healthy. We, in ADPAN, place much emphasis on continued education and dialogue in an open and transparent environment. We are firmly of the view that wherever there is honest, courageous and careful study of a justice system, its flaws, its strengths, its purposes; in combination with a study of trials, acknowledging the reality everywhere of the inevitability in every system of some wrongful convictions; with honest assessments of state brutality when it occurs, together with the study of prison conditions, and other relevant matters, then the futility and unnecessary cruelty of state-sanctioned executions will become apparent.  So many countries of the world have already done this – rich and poor, of all political and religious persuasions. It is time for the remaining executing countries to do the same.

ADPAN envisions a world without the death penalty, and we start from Asia.  Asia covers a vast geographical area, diverse and rich in ethnicity and culture, with different forms of government. We understand the challenges, yet we believe that with the hard work of all stakeholders and the commitment towards humanity, this is not an impossible goal. History and the changes of the last 70 years show us that such goals are not merely dreams but can become practical realities.

Last but not least, on this 10th October, as every corner of the world commemorates the World Day Against the Death Penalty, ADPAN wish to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation to the abolition community and welcome all others to join the family as we call for the abolition of the death penalty, an end to state-sanctioned killings.

Issued by:

ADPAN Executive Committee

10 October 2018

contactadpan@gmail.com

JAPAN : HALT all executions!

ADPAN

ADPAN Press Statement
Dated : 16 July 2018

 

JAPAN : HALT all executions!

 

ADPAN condemns the execution of the 7 members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult on 6 July 2018. To our knowledge, this was the highest number of executions conducted by the Japanese Government within a single day.

 
We believe that the death penalty has no place in today’s society. Its existence serves only the purpose of “vengeance” and nothing else. Death Penalty does not adequately address the issue of justice for all the parties. On the other hand, the death penalty is irreversible and we cannot bring back life if one is wrongly convicted and executed.

 
In the Japanese legal system, a condemned prisoner on death row may petition for retrial after conviction. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations had on 29 March 2018, made a request to the Ministry of Justice, urging the government to suspend all executions of death row inmates (whose death sentences are finalized), especially those who have filed a petition for a retrial and those who may be mentally incompetent to be executed. The Japanese government has obviously disregarded this call.

 
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has been very vocal in campaigning for the
abolition of the death penalty in Japan, citing that death penalty is irreversible and can never be condoned. In a statement dated 19 December 2017, the Federation states that “In Japan, during the 1980s alone, there were four cases where the defendant was convicted and sentenced to death but was later found not guilty during a retrial”; and the “Hakamada case made on March 27, 2014 serves as an important reminder to all of us that the possibility of a wrongful judgment or false accusation is viable and realistic”.

 
In September 2017, ADPAN, together with 14 NGOs and Civil Societies across Asia,
submitted a stakeholder report for Japan’s Universal Periodical Review and we have
recommended immediate moratorium of all executions. We continue to call for the
moratorium and the abolishment of the death penalty.

 
We understand that another 6 executions might be imminent following the executions on 6 July 2018.

 
We call on the government of Japan to halt such executions and impose a moratorium immediately.

Issued by:
Ngeow Chow Ying
Member of Executive Committee

Related Posts:-

Japan – Letter of Protest Regarding the execution of seven inmates on July 6, 2018

Japan – 7 executions in one day?

Japan – ADPAN & 14 CSOs Submission for UPR

Malaysia – 40 Groups Media Statement – 10 SENTENCED TO DEATH BECAUSE DELAY OF COMING INTO FORCE LAW THAT ABOLISHES MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING – Abolish Death Penalty

Media Statement-14/2/2018

10 SENTENCED TO DEATH BECAUSE DELAY OF COMING INTO FORCE LAW THAT ABOLISHES MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING

Abolish Death Penalty

We, the 40 undersigned organisations, groups and trade unions are most disturbed and saddened that at least  10 persons, as reported in the media, have been been victims of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking  despite the fact that Parliament had already passed the law abolishing mandatory death penalty and returning sentencing discretion to judges vide the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017.

This Act, which was passed by Parliament and received royal assent on 27/12/2017, cannot now be used by judges to consider alternatives to the death penalty sentence until the Minister do the needful that will enable this life saving law to come into force. A perusal of the Malaysia’s Federal Gazatte website will disclose that many other laws that have obtained royal assent at the same time as the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017(DDAA 2017), or later, are already in force.

Section 3(2) of Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 states, ‘ (2) Any proceedings against any person who has been charged, whether  or  not  trial  has  commenced  or  has  been  completed,  and has  not  been  convicted  under  section  39b  of  the  principal  Act  by  a  competent  Court  before  the  appointed  date,  shall  on  the  appointed  date  be  dealt  with  by  the  competent  Court  and  be  continued  under  the  provisions  of  the  principal  Act  as  amended  by this Act.’

This DDAA 2017, when it comes to force, will only be applicable for cases where the accused person is not yet convicted. As such, if the court convicts before the new law comes into force, then the Judge is left with no choice but to impose the mandatory death penalty.

To date, based on media reports only, there are at least 10 persons, 5 Malaysians and 5 foreign nationals, who have suffered grave injustice by being convicted and sentenced to death simply because of the Minister’s delay in doing the needful:-

  • Pragasam(30) – Ipoh High Court(Malay Mail, 9/2/2018)
  • Ong Cheng Yaw(33) and San Kim Huat(38) – Kuala Lumpur High Court (Malaysian Insight, 8/2/2018)
  • Jonas Chihurumnanya(Nigerian) – Kuching High Court (The Borneo Post, 30/1/2018)
  • Gopi Kumar(33) – KL High Court( (The Sun Daily, 24/1/2018)
  • Sargunan(42), and four Indian nationals, namely Sumesh Sudhakaran(30), Alex Aby Jacob Alexander(37), Renjith Raveendran(28), and Sajith Sadanandan(29) – Shah Alam High Court (The Sun Daily, 22/1/2018)

A perusal of the website of the Malaysian e-Federal Gazette, discloses that several other Acts that also received royal assent on 27/12/2017, came into force on 30/12/2017. Some Acts that received royal assent on 29/12/2018 also came into force on 11/1/2018. Now, if the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017, had come into force fast, then these 10 persons, now on death row, may not even have been sentenced to death.

The new law, when it finally comes into force, does not provide the Courts, including the Appellate courts, the power to vary the death sentence of those already convicted by the High Court to imprisonment, unless the conviction itself is set aside on appeal.

In an ordinary criminal appeal, the convicted has the right to appeal against the conviction, and also appeal against the sentence. However, when the law provides for a mandatory sentence, in this case the death penalty, when the accused person fails in his/her appeal against conviction, then the courts cannot even review the appropriateness of the sentence as the law only provides for only one sentence is available – the death penalty for drug trafficking.

The dilemma facing judges, who are still denied discretion when it comes to sentencing until the new law is in force, is reflected by words of the judge that sentenced 5 persons to death -“Since there is only one sentence provided for under Section 39B of the Act, the court hereby sentences all the accused to death,” he [Judge Datuk Ghazali Cha] said.’. (The Sun Daily, 22/1/2018)

When the new law finally do come into force, the judge will have an option other than the death sentence, being life imprisonment with whipping of not less than 15 strokes.

Existing Inadequacies No Reason For Delay

There are still many flaws in the new Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017, including the limitations imposed as to the matters that the judge can or should consider when deciding on an appropriate sentence, which goes against normal practice in other criminal trials where there are almost no restrictions as to the matters that can be considered by the judge in the exercise of his sentencing discretion. There have also been criticisms about the limited options that will be available, as it would certainly be more just for judges to be able to sentence persons to a lower prison sentence in appropriate cases and not just to life imprisonment only.

The new law, sadly, do not provide any remedy to those already convicted and/or for the 800 or more currently on death row by reason of having been convicted for drug trafficking.

Be that as it may, the new law does abolish the mandatory death penalty, and many who will be convicted after the law is in force, may end up not being sentenced to death.

There is always the option to amend laws later to correct any existing defects, and that certainly is no excuse for delaying the coming into force the DDAA 2017.

It is most disturbing that no reasons seem to have been given by the government and/or the Minister for this delay, which adversely affects persons like the 10, who now are facing the hangman’s noose.

Many of the persons convicted for this offence may even be first time offenders, young people, and /or persons forced into crime by reasons of poverty. As such, government may also bear some responsibility in allowing a situation where the poor are left with no option but crime just for the wellbeing of themselves and their family.

Some of those convicted and sentenced to death may also be parents and/or siblings of children, and most certainly death sentence can never be said to be in the best interest of the child. Malaysia, being a signatory of the Child Rights Convention(CRC), has an obligation to  ensure also that no parent, sibling or relatives of children are sentenced to death.

Abolition of Death Penalty and Mandatory Death Penalty

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, the new de facto Law Minister, during the Parliamentary session on 2/11/2016 clarified that Malaysia was not just looking at the mandatory death penalty, but all death penalty.( “(The Sun Daily, 3/11/2016)

Currently in Malaysia, even after the mandatory death penalty is abolished for drug trafficking, there still remains about 11 other offences that provide for the mandatory death penalty, while about 20 other offences are punishable by a discretionary death penalty. Some of these mandatory death penalty offences are offences that do not even cause the loss of life or grievous bodily harm.

Malaysia must expedite the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty.

THEREFORE, we

  1. a) Call on Malaysia to immediately put into force the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017, which to date the delay has already caused at least 10 persons to be sentenced to death because drug trafficking is still a mandatory death penalty offence until the new law is in force;
  2. b) Call on Malaysia to immediately cause to stay criminal trials of alleged drug traffickers until the new law is in force, which would give judges discretion to impose a sentence other than the death penalty;
  3. c) Call on Malaysia to expedite the abolition of death penalty, especially the mandatory for all remaining death penalty offences;
  4. d) Call on Malaysia to impose a moratorium on executions, pending abolition of the death penalty.

 

Charles Hector

Ngeow Chow Ying

 

For and on behalf of the 40 groups and organisations listed below

 

ALIRAN (Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara)

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network)

Australians Against Capital Punishment (AACP)

ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty [Ensemble contre la peine de mort])

Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan

Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) Cambodia

Democratic Commission for Human Development, Pakistan

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

Hands off Cain

Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center

KLSCAH-Civil Rights Committee

Global Women’s Strike, UK

Legal Action for Women, UK

Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD)

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility

MARUAH, Singapore

Migrant Care

Odhikar, Bangladesh

Parliamentarians For Global Action

Paris Bar (Barreau de Paris)

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

Payday Men’s Network, UK

Payday Men’s Network – US

Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL

PROHAM(Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia)

Refusing to Kill, UK

Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)

SMU Human Rights Program, Dallas, Texas, USA

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance), Nepal

The Julian Wagner Memorial Fund (JWMF)

The Rights Practice

Think Centre, Singapore

We Believe in Second Chances, Singapore

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike, UK

Women’s Rights and Democracy Centre (WORD Centre), Liberia

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

 

 

Note: – A check of the website of Malaysian e-Federal Gazette confirms that the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017 is still not in force

http://www.federalgazette.agc.gov.my/eng_main/main_akta.php?jenis_akta=Pindaan