Malaysia – Justice For Murder Victim’s Families Is Not Death Penalty But A Better Administration Of Justice And Adequate Compensation For Their Loss (MADPET)

Media Statement – 16/1/2020

Justice For Murder Victim’s Families Is Not Death Penalty But A Better Administration Of Justice And Adequate Compensation For Their Loss

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) acknowledges the desire of families and friends of murder victims for justice, which reasonably should be that murderers, and hopefully also the persons that ordered and paid for the killing of their loved ones, be identified, investigated, prosecuted and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, they ought to be punished. However, MADPET disagree that the death penalty ought to be retained to ensure justice.

The families of the late deputy public prosecutor Datuk Kevin Morias, millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya, bank manager Stephen Wong Jing Kui, university student Chee Gaik Yap, Annie Kok, one-year-old Muhammad Hafiz Idris and his 4 year old sister Nurulhanim Idris was reported to have met with the Select Committee for Abolition of Death Penalty chaired by former Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum at Parliament on Tuesday (14/1/2020) to urge for the retention of the death penalty.(Malay Mail, 14/1/2020, New Straits Times, 14/1/2020, FMT, 13/1/2020)

No One Wants An Innocent Man To Be Executed

MADPET also believes that no one, including the family and dependents of murder victims, wants anyone to be wrongly convicted or executed. We recall one recent  case in Asia where an innocent man was wrongly executed, whereby in January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously.

“No criminal justice system is perfect. You take a man’s life and years later, you find out that another person did the crime. What can you do?” – Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, the then Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department.

Risk Of Miscarriage Of Justice in Malaysia Is Real

In Malaysia, the risk of this miscarriage of justice is high. In our system of administration of justice made up of the  police, prosecutors, lawyers, judges and/or even witnesses can make mistakes that may lead to the conviction and execution of innocent persons. It can also lead to the real perpetrators and masterminds evading justice.

In the case of the murder of Bill Kayong, a human rights defender, 4 persons were jointly tried, where 1 was charged for murder and the other 3 were charged for abetment of murder. At the close of the prosecution case, the High Court acquitted 3 because the prosecution failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove the charge.  Only one Mohd Fitri Pauz was convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court in August 2018. A perusal of the judgment points towards a possible failure of the prosecution to adduce sufficient evidence, even circumstantial evidence, to even satisfy the Judge to ask the 3 abettors  to enter their defence. The 3 were acquitted.

In the murder case of N Dharmendran, who was killed in police custody, all 4 police officers were acquitted. For a crime that happened in police custody, it is odd that there was no evidence linking those who had been charged to the torture and/or killing of the victim.

Attention also must be drawn to the inquiry findings of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) into the death of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur that concluded that the police caused the death and worse that the police also tampered and/or removed evidence.

In both the cases of Dharmendran and Syed Mohd Azlan, recently the High Court following civil suits initiated by the families awarded compensation to the families but sadly none of the police officers who tortured and killed seems to have been convicted.

Then, we have the case of Wang Kelian, where more than 150 remains of foreigners, believed to be human trafficking victims, had been exhumed from shallow, unmarked graves. We recall that an  exhaustive, two-year investigation by the New Straits Times Special Probes Team into the mass killings in Wang Kelian in 2015 suggested a massive, coordinated cover-up. ‘One of the biggest revelations was that the human trafficking death camps had been discovered months earlier, but police only announced the discovery on May 25…Another huge question mark was why did police order the destruction of these camps, which were potential crime scenes, before they could be processed by forensics personnel?…’(New Straits Times, 20/12/2017)

We recall also how the former Attorney General/Public Prosecutor decided not to proceed with charging anyone for the IMDB and/or SRC cases.

All these, and many other cases raises much questions about the state of the administration of justice in Malaysia, and more importantly escalates the possibility of miscarriage of justice which may result in the wrongful conviction of innocent persons, which may also result in wrongful executions if the death penalty was retained in Malaysia.

Justice demands a comprehensive honest investigation by the police, enforcement agencies and the prosecution, and where sufficient evidence is obtained a prosecution of accused persons and a fair trial by competent judges.

The government must no longer tolerate incompetence and wrongdoings of the police, enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges. It ought to remove ‘bad apples’ in our administration of justice and not merely subject them to disciplinary actions.

How many investigation of cases of murder have not even resulted in identification of alleged perpetrators and/or a trial in Malaysia?

During the rule of the Barisan Nasional, the government stopped providing Malaysians with clear statistics as to the actual number of murders, rape and other crimes and it is MADPET’s hope that the new Pakatan Harapan government will now start to disclose actual figures of crime including murder, together with the status of investigation and prosecution. A crime index which lumps several offences together really does not tell us how many murders have occurred, and how many such murder cases remain unsolved. Justice demands thorough investigations followed by proper prosecution.

For murder, it is not just the actual killer that need to be identified and/or prosecuted but also all others who paid the killer to kill or ordered the killing. The abolition of the mandatory death penalty, coupled with the possibility of reduced sentences for information and evidence of those who ordered or paid another to kill will bring about greater justice, and reduce the possibility of the guilty escaping justice.

It is hoped that our new Pakatan Harapan government will do the needful to improve our administration of justice to ensure that justice is truly done.

Additional Justice For Family Of Victims And Victims of Crime –  Compensation

The families of murder victims today cannot even rely on the fact that the perpetrators have already been found guilty and convicted for murder by court, in a civil suit seeking damages and/or compensation from the perpetrator.

This is because section 43 of the Evidence Act does not allow this. ‘The family of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaa­rii­buu will have to prove her brutal killing all over again as the civil High Court has ruled that evidence from the murder case, which found two police officers guilty, cannot be used in the civil case.’(Star, 2/10/2018)

This section ought to be amended so that families of victims or victims of crimes, ought to be able to use these conviction as proof of the alleged crime rather than being forced to prove all over again in a new court case the fact that the perpetrator killed, raped or committed a crime against the victim.

In criminal cases, the courts should also order the perpetrators to pay victims adequate damages and/or compensations.

Families Were Merely Objecting To Removal Of Death Penalty For Murder?

It must be noted that these were families of victims that were murdered or killed, but in Malaysia there are many offences that carry the death penalty, and some even the mandatory death penalty, for offences that do not even directly result in the death or injury of the victim.

Some offences that now have the mandatory death penalty for crimes that do not result in death of victims include drug trafficking and certain listed offenses under section 3 and 3A of the  Firearms (Increased Penalties Act 1971)  where a firearm is discharged, both the person who discharged the firearm and the accomplices will face the mandatory death penalty, when committing the following 6 crimes – 1. Extortion, 2. Robbery, 3. The preventing or resisting by any person, of his own arrest or the arrest of another by a police officer or any other person lawfully empowered to make the arrest. 4. Escaping from lawful custody, 5. Abduction or kidnapping under sections 363 to 367 of the Penal Code and section 3 of the Kidnapping Act 1961 [Act 365], and 6. House-breaking or house-trespass under sections 454 to 460 of the Penal Code.

The offences that carry the mandatory death penalty that results in death of the victim other than Murder(sec. 302 Penal Code) are Committing terrorist acts where the act results in death (sec. 130C (1)(a) ]; and Hostage taking where the act results in death (sec. 374(a) Penal Code).

Whilst the views of these family of murder victims ought to be considered, justice demands that Malaysia ought to abolish the death penalty without any more delay. It must be acknowledged that there are also many family members of murder victims that are strong advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.

The risk of miscarriage of justice demands that we do not wrongly extinguish the life of a fellow human being, and the only real solution is the total abolition of the death penalty.

Perpetrators of crime must be punished but never put to death. We do not cut off the hand of a criminal who by his crime resulted a victim to lose an arm. Likewise, we should not kill someone who killed another.

MADPET reiterates its call for the total abolition of the death penalty;

MADPET urges the government to not procrastinate and promptly abolish the mandatory death penalty in the upcoming Parliamentary session, which hopefully will follow soon thereafter with the total abolition of the death penalty;

MADPET also calls for improvement of administration of justice in Malaysia, especially in the quality of the police, enforcement officers and the prosecution to ensure that justice be done;

MADPET also calls for the provision of compensation and/or damages to murder victims and victims of crime, and for the amendment of section 43 of the Evidence Act 1950 to allow victims to use the fact of conviction as prove of the liability of the perpetrators in their claims for compensation and damages in court.; and

MADPET also calls on the government to abolish Detention Without Trial laws and all unjust laws speedily.

Charles Hector

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

What about our feelings? Kin of murder victims lash out at death penalty repeal

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020 08:23 PM MYT


Tan Siew Lin, mother of Annie Kok Yin Cheng, holds back tears as she speaks during a news conference at the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 — Several family members of murder victims have accused Putrajaya today of purportedly being insensitive towards their feelings with its move to abolish the capital punishment.

They claimed that justice will not be served as long as killers are allowed to walk free, while others may use loopholes in the system to avoid the gallows.

“We used to celebrate her birthday together on the sixth on June every year. Now she’s dead but the government is considering abolishing the death penalty.

“How is this fair? If he is let loose I will find him or ask someone to find him and shoot him dead,” said Tan Siew Lin, referring to her late teen daughter Annie Kok Yin Cheng, who was murdered and raped in 2009.

“For us there is no closure as long as we know these criminals are out free or that there is a chance for them to escape the death penalty,” she added.

Tan said she tried handing over a memorandum with 97,000 signatures from those opposing the abolition of the death penalty to lawmakers last year. She claimed she was refused entry into the Parliament.

A guest must be accompanied by an MP to enter the Parliament.

“The government doesn’t understand our pain. If it abolishes it, we will make noise,” added Tan, whose daughter’s killer, Rabidin Satir, is currently awaiting trial on several charges of rape and theft.

Representatives and family members of murder victims who refuse to accept the abolishment of the death penalty pose for a group photo in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Today, family members and representatives of the alleged murder victims — Datuk Kevin Morias, Datuk Sosilawati Lawita, Stephen Wong Jing Kui, Chee Gaik Yap, Annie, Muhammad Hafiz Indris, and Nurulhanim Idris — attended a meeting with a Parliamentary Select Committee here to plead against the repeal of the death penalty.

The family members said they all felt the committee has already made up their mind to abolish the death penalty, and the meeting was just a formality.

“They asked us, if the death penalty is imposed and the perpetrator is killed, will that bring your loved ones’ back to life and will it really make us happy?

“I feel this is a silly question,” said Mansur Ibrahim, representing the family of toddlers Hafiz and Nurulhanim.

Mansur said countries who have removed the death penalty are now bringing it back as there has been an uptick in crime, but did not provide any examples to back his claim.

Out of 195 members of United Nations, only 55 countries still retain the death penalty.

“Seems as though they’ve already set their minds to abolish the Act. We just met them as a formality,” said Alan Ong Yeow Fooi, representing Morais and Sosilawati.

Tan Sri Robert Phang claimed that Malaysia could be a haven for criminal activity if capital punishment is abolished. He also did not provide any proof to back his claim.

“If the public demands it, then a referendum should be made to not abolish the death penalty,” Phang said.

Tan Siew Lin (left) holds up news clippings of her daughter Annie Kok Yin Cheng as she speaks during a news conference at the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

At the meeting today, the select committee was represented by Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Zahrah Ibrahim, Datin Paduka Sri Zauyah Be, Datuk Mah Weng Kwai and Dr Farah Nini Dusuki.

The Pakatan Harapan government made a historic decision on December 2018 by voting in favour of a United Nations resolution for member states that still retains the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing this punishment.

Two months after being voted into power in May 2018, the government ordered in July that year a suspension of all pending death sentences. However, it has since demurred on total abolition of the capital punishment.

The Cabinet has been mulling three options: total abolition of the death penalty; or making the death penalty non-mandatory for crimes such as murder; or giving judges full discretion during sentencing for those convicted under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The abolition is expected to be tabled in the Parliament in March. – Malay Mail, 14/1/2020

Related Articles

‘No to abolishing mandatory death sentence’

Pix for illustration purposes only.

By Azura Abas

January 14, 2020 @ 9:35pm

PUTRAJAYA: Family members and representatives of murder victims are vehemently against any move to abolish the mandatory death penalty for heinous crimes, including premeditated killings.

They expressed their firm stand in a 90-minute meeting with the Select Committee for Abolition of Death Penalty chaired by former Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum on Tuesday.

The families comprised that of the late deputy public prosecutor Datuk Kevin Morias, millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya, bank manager Stephen Wong Jing Kui, university student Chee Gaik Yap, Annie Kok, one-year-old Muhammad Hafiz Idris and his sister Nurulhanim Idris, 4.

Tan Siew Lin, 57, the mother of Kok, who was 17 years old when she was raped and killed at her house in 2009, wants her killer to hang.

“If he is freed, I will hunt down that person myself,” said Tan, who still cries in the bathroom when she thinks of Kok.

“I will only have peace when her killer is dead,” she told reporters after the meeting, adding no one could truly understand how the families of murder victims felt until they themselves experienced it.

The families, in a joint statement said they strongly felt criminals who planned, raped, kidnapped, maliciously and deliberately killed their victims in cold blood deserved to hang.

“We want a life for a life, no less. Take note, the killer(s) took not just one precious life, but also destroyed many others’, including ours.

“We will not accept compensation from the government or killers’ family in order to absolve the criminals from capital punishment. If they have the courage to kill, they must also have the courage to take responsibility for their actions, ie. be hanged. This is our rule of law,” the statement said.

The families added they had seen killers freed more often than hanged.

“The justice system should be getting justice for victims, not to protect criminals.

“We are very sad to see the government working closely with only pro-abolition NGOs to remove the death penalty.

“Some of these NGOs are privately well-funded. Some are even funded by the government, They are equipped with resources to fight for freedom of the criminals. Victims like us have nothing.

“Some of us had to borrow money to bring the cases to civil court,” they said.

The families said they were sad to see that the government seems to be fighting only for the benefit of criminals.

“We feel betrayed and abandoned.”

In removing the mandatory death penalty, they said it would only make “death penalty” be seen on paper, but not in practice.

“Have you (the government) done your research to see how our neighbours keep the death penalty to protect the people and keep the city safe?”

Social Care Foundation Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Robert Phang urged the government not to abolish the mandatory death sentence.

“Don’t ever make Malaysia a paradise for criminals.” – New Straits Times, 14/1/2020

Families of high-profile murder victims to state opposition to death penalty abolition

FMT Reporters

January 13, 2020 5:24 PM

(Clockwise from top left) Kevin Morais, Stephen Wong Jing Kui, Chee Gaik Yap, Annie Kok Yin Cheng and Sosilawati Lawiya.

PETALING JAYA: Families of three murder victims will meet Putrajaya’s special committee to review the mandatory death sentence tomorrow, ahead of a report on its findings expected this month.

They are expected to voice their opposition against any move to replace the mandatory death sentence.

They include families of deputy public prosecutor Kevin Morais, cosmetics business owner Sosilawati Lawiya, banker Stephen Wong Jing Kui, UUM graduate Chee Gaik Yap and teenager Annie Kok Yin Cheng, both of whom were raped and murdered in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

A statement by their family members said they would meet former chief justice Richard Malanjum, who heads the Special Committee on the Study of the Alternative Sentence to the Mandatory Death Sentence and other members.

The statement said the calls to abolish the death sentence from “liberal pro-abolition NGOs” as well as government leaders have ignored the victims of the convicted individuals.

“Sadly the dead victims do not have a voice and their families do not have the support of the current Cabinet and they do not have any platform to speak up on this issue,” they said. – FMT, 13/1/2020

ADPAN mentioned in mainstream media

‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 04 Nov 2018

THIRTY-five people were hung to death in Malaysia for the crimes they committed over the past decade.

These numbers, as recorded by the Prisons Department, will end here.

With the Government determined to remove the death penalty, some hailed it as the more humane approach – upholding the right to life.

Others, however, feel the hangman’s noose is still needed to answer to the heinous crimes man is capable of.

Murder, rape resulting in death, drug trafficking and committing terrorism are examples of offences punishable by death.

With a moratorium imposed on the penalty, 1,281 death row inmates are spared.

But abolishing the death sentence doesn’t mean zero punishment, says Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) executive committee member Ngeow Chow Ying.

“It is just not an appropriate sentence.

“The alternative is imprisonment and it has to be culpable to the crime,” she tells Sunday Star.

Last month, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said those on death row will have their sentence commuted to imprisonment for life or life imprisonment.

Imprisonment for life means convicts will spend the rest of their lives in prison without any release date.

Life imprisonment requires them to be jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Looking forward, Ngeow says the concern is to look into prison reform, jail sentences for serious crimes and what can be done to rehabilitate prisoners.

“After the death penalty is abolished, these are the issues that should be looked into.

“About 55,000 people are in prison now. But the criminal justice system isn’t supposed to lock them up and forget about it.

“Its purpose is to rehabilitate them and see if they can be reintegrated into society,” says Ngeow.

But she acknowledges the feelings of some victims and their families, who may want the death penalty as the means for justice to be served.

“If they feel the death penalty is the only way to cure their pain, we have to respect that.

“But for us, we believe that you can’t send a message that murder is wrong by killing another person,” says Ngeow, from Adpan which consists 80 organisations across 22 countries.

In Western countries, she observes that some families believe that their suffering cannot be compensated by the death penalty.

“Some just want answers to what happened,” she adds.

Calling it cruel and inhumane, senior criminal lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram says the death penalty belongs in the past.

“In the old days, justice was always an eye for an eye.

“But as Mahatma Gandhi would say, this will only make everyone blind.

“We need to move on to a more humane form of justice. Studies show that the death penalty hasn’t been proven to deter crimes,” he says.

Drawing from experience, he says many accused persons claim they would rather die than to be imprisoned for life. – Star,

“They don’t want to languish in jail. They would rather accept death.

“So, to me, the minimum 30-year jail term or being jailed for life is more of a deterrent than death,” Sithambaram says.

He says other forms of punishment can be included in the sentence, such as community service.

“The Pardons Board should review cases to see if the convict is able to change.

“Many can make themselves better and useful through rehabilitation.

“We all regret the wrong things we have done. Those who genuinely repent should be given a second chance,” he says.

Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo says community work should be made possible as part of the replacement sentence.

For the 1,281 people on death row, he suggests that there should be a provision for the High Court to review the sentences imposed.

“There should not be a simplistic replacement of, say 30 years.

“Each case must be considered based on its own facts and situation,” he says.Khoo stresses that the whipping should not be part of the replacement punishment.

“Corporal punishment is against the United Nations Convention Against Torture.Malaysia has said we will also accede to that. So we should not violate that as well,” he says.

On the death penalty giving victims and their families a sense of retribution, Khoo says the state should not be involved in the business of revenge.

“Justice needs to be dispassionate. It should not be influenced by emotion.

“When we allow our feelings to influence our sense of justice, there is a risk we will arrive at an unjust outcome,” he adds.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman says the government’s decision on the death penalty was made after taking all views into account.

“As part of the ministry that will implement the policy, we support the Cabinet’s decision.

“Let the Cabinet decide on the finer details, such as the replacement sentences and the possibility of incorporating community service, later,” he says.

Pemerintah Didesak Buat Kebijakan untuk Hapus Hukuman Mati

Ramadhan Rizki, CNN Indonesia | Kamis, 10/05/2018 04:26 WIB
Pemerintah Didesak Buat Kebijakan untuk Hapus Hukuman MatiWakil Koordinator Bidang Advokasi KontraS, Putri Kanesia. (CNN Indonesia/Bimo Wiwoho)
Jakarta, CNN Indonesia — Komisi untuk Orang hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS) mendesak pemerintah mengeluarkan kebijakan penghapusan hukuman mati di Indonesia.

Hal itu merupakan salah satu rekomendasi dari Konferensi Nasional 20 Tahun Reformasi: Kejahatan dan Penghukuman di Indonesia yang telah dihelat di Jakarta.

“Pemerintah harus melakukan moratorium hukuman mati sebagai praktik penghukuman kejahatan sebelum menuju kepada penghapusan secara menyeluruh hukuman mati,” kata Wakil Koordinator Bidang Advokasi KontraS, Putri Kanesia di kantor KontraS, Jakarta Pusat, Rabu (9/5).

Putri menilai bahwa proses penghentian hukuman mati di Indonesia harus segera dilaksanakan karena tidak tepat dan bertentangan dengan perundang-undangan yang berlaku.

Ia merinci bahwa hukuman mati bertentangan dengan pasal 281 UUD 1945. Selain itu, hukuman mati juga bertentangan dengan sejumlah peraturan diantaranya Undang-Undang Nomor 39 Tahun 1999 Tentang Hak Asasi Manusia dan Undang-Undang 12 Tahun 2005 Tentang Pengesahan Intemational tentang hak Sipil dan Politik.

“Memang hukuman mati masih sangat pelik dan kerap jadi perdebatan yang menimbulkan pro dan kontra di ranah nasional dan jadi preseden di dunia internasional,” kata dia.

Selain itu, Putri mengatakan bahwa kasus-kasus hukuman mati di Indonesia telah terbukti adanya pelanggaran prosedur hukum dan dugaan unfair trial turut oleh mayoritas terpidana mati.

Ia mencontohkan kasus seperti tak disediakannya penasehat hukum oleh pemerintah untuk membela hak terpidana mati. Selain itu, terdapat kasus praktik penyiksaan terhadap terpidana mati, praktik manipulasi usia dan adanya rekayasa kasus yang menyangkut diskriminasi ras.

“Temuan fakta itu tak pernah dijadikan pertimbangan bagi pemerintah untuk melakukan evaluasi menyeluruh terhadap tuntutan maupun vonis hukuman mati,” ucapnya.

Melihat hal itu, Putri lantas meminta Jokowi untuk melakukan pembenahan dan pengawasan serius terhadap sistem peradilan pidana di Indonesia.

Hal itu bertujuan agar sistem peradilan memenuhi standar peradilan yang adil, tidak memihak dan Imparsial serta mengacu kepada standar HAM internasional yang berlaku universal.

“Kami juga mendesak pemerintah menindak aktor-aktor penegak hukum yang terlibat dalam praktik peradilan yang korup, manipulatif atau sewenang-wenang terhadap kasus hukuman mati di Indonesia,” pintanya.

Tak hanya itu, Putri juga meminta Jokowi dapat memberikan akses bantuan hukum yang layak dan memadai bagi terpidana mati.

Hal itu bertujuan agar meminimalisir potensi terjadinya kembali pelanggaran prosedur hukum maupun dugaan ‘unfair trial’ terhadap narapidana hukuman mati.

“Pemerintah kota garap dapat menjalin kerja sama dan komunikasi dengan berbagai stakeholders seperti keduataan negara asing di indonesia, organisasi advokat mauoin kelonpok masyarakat sipil,” katanya.

Diketahui, penghapusan rekomendasi hukuman mati ini turut didukung oleh elemen masyarakat sipil lainnya seperti Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), Ensemble Contre La Peine De Mort (ECPM), Komnas HAM, Imparsial dan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum (LBH) Masyarakat. – CNN Indonesia, 10/5/2018

Amnesty International urges Malaysia to end death penalty

Amnesty International urges Malaysia to end death penalty

Shamini Darshni Kalimuthu, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, seeks during a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Amnesty International has urged Malaysia to abolish the death penalty, saying unfair trials and the use of harsh treatment to obtain confessions put people at risk of execution. AP Photo 

Amnesty International urged Malaysia’s government on Thursday to keep its promise to abolish the death penalty, saying unfair trials and the use of harsh treatment to obtain confessions put people at risk of execution.

The rights group released details of nearly two years of research on 150 cases as well as interviews with prisoners’ families, lawyers and embassy officials in a report that it said showed the use of the death penalty was “fatally flawed.”

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government promised shortly after taking power in May 2018 to scrap capital punishment, which mandates hanging as punishment for a wide range of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping and acts of terror.

But the government backtracked after public objection. Parliament, which resumed meeting this week, will instead remove mandatory death penalties for some offenses and give courts discretion in imposing the sentence.

The report said 73% of the 1,281 people on death row as of February were convicted of drug offenses, including 568 foreigners from 43 countries and many poor members of ethnic minorities.

It said some prisoners were tortured and beaten to make them confess. In one case, a Malaysian man detained in 2005 for possessing drugs and later sentenced to death had his finger broken by police, who also threatened to beat up his girlfriend, it said.

Those who are poor often go without legal assistance until they are brought to court, it said. Some were asked to sign documents in the Malay language that were not translated for them, according to the report.

The group said the pardon process was also not transparent, with no clear criteria and access to pro-bono legal services controlled by prison officials. It said half of the foreigners on death row didn’t seek pardons.

“Our research found a pattern of unfair trials and secretive hangings that itself spoke volumes. From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it’s clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia’s criminal justice system,” Amnesty Malaysia director Sharmini Darshni Kaliemuthu said.

The group said its requests to meet Malaysian authorities including the police and officials in the attorney-general’s office for more details were rejected or unanswered.

It said government sources indicated 469 people had been executed since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, half of them for drug trafficking.

The death penalty is currently retained for nearly three dozen offenses. Amnesty International urged Malaysia to move toward scrapping capital punishment by repealing mandatory death sentences for all crimes and maintaining a moratorium on executions until then.

Government officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Many Asian countries including China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam impose capital punishment. – The Charlotte Observer, 10/10/2019

Amnesty International Malaysia is a member of ADPAN