Hakam: Impose moratorium on execution of 1,022 death row prisoners

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The National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam) welcomes the government’s move to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences.

The mandatory death sentence deprives the sentencing judge of the discretion to consider all relevant facts of the case and the individual circumstances of each convicted person. A sentencing judge must be given the option to impose the appropriate sentence.

Whilst removing the mandatory death sentence is a step in the right direction, we would call on the government to abolish the mandatory death sentence in its entirety for all criminal offences.

The death penalty violates the right to life guaranteed under Article 5 of our Federal Constitution and is undoubtedly a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to international law. A recent public opinion survey on the death penalty in Malaysia undertaken by Emeritus Professor Roger Hood QC from the University of Oxford has shown that the majority of the Malaysian public do not support an imposition of the death penalty.

We also call on the government to impose a moratorium on the execution of 1,022 death row prisoners currently waiting for execution pending the abolition of the mandatory death sentence for all criminal offences.

Having been on the Human Rights Council and presently on the Security Council as a non-permanent member, Malaysia must show a genuine commitment to abide by international norms in relation to the right to life and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

We hope that the government will continue taking steps in the right direction towards the ultimate abolishment of the death penalty.

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Ambiga Sreenevasan is president of Hakam. The above state was issued on behalf of the Hakam executive committee

Addendum

Following Hakam’s statement calling for a moratorium of all 1,022 executions while the government looks into abolishing the mandatory death sentence in Malaysia, Hakam also urges the government to explore all diplomatic channels to persuade the Singapore government to grant clemency to Kho Jabing, the Sarawakian who is on death row in Singapore. Hakam acknowledges Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s statement that he will write to appeal to the Singapore government to grant clemency to Jabing.

This is indeed an urgent call for the government to defend one of her citizens on death row. The Malaysian government must view this as a serious case. Kho Jabing was sentenced to death in 2008 and in 2013, Singapore amended its law concerning the mandatory death sentence. This resulted in a resentencing hearing for Kho Jabing.

The High Court of Singapore then sentenced him to life imprisonment plus 24 strokes of the cane which shows that the High Court found that he should not be sentenced to death. Upon appeal by the prosecution, the Court of Appeal sentenced him to death in a 3-2 decision.

This fact plays an important role in proving that we should be pursuing all means necessary to ensure he is given clemency and a chance at rehabilitation. The court had also acquitted Kho Jabing’s co-accussed, Galing, of murder charge and sentenced him of the offence of robbery with hurt. The minority judgment of the Court of Appeal also found that there was insufficient evidence to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Kho Jabing had acted in a way which exhibits viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life.

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The Malaysian government must do all it can within its capacity to appeal to the Singapore leadership to exercise discretion to grant Kho Jabing clemency.

This move should not be seen as interfering in the legal system of Singapore but it must be viewed as the government’s positive obligation to protect the right to life of its citizens abroad.

Hakam reiterates that nobody should be sentenced to death as it is contrary to international norms in relation to the right to life and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Ambiga Sreenevasan

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