Respect human dignity of all, including criminals

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The first anniversary of Pope Francis and Catholics worldwide adopting the position for the total abolition of the death penalty fell on 3 October 2021.

The Pope’s call included the abolition of extrajudicial or extralegal executions, which are “homicides deliberately committed by certain states and by their agents, often passed off as clashes with criminals or presented as the unintended consequences of the reasonable, necessary and proportionate use of force in applying the law”. It also took the position that “a life sentence is a secret death penalty”.

Pope Francis’s encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity And Social friendship), issued on 3 October 2020, is a call to all people of goodwill, not just Christians “to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, in all its forms, but also to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom”. This position is consistent with the common values and principles in most religions and cultures.

The inalienable dignity of every human being ought to be recognised and respected. “The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognise the inalienable dignity of every human being and to accept that he or she has a place in this universe.”

“Forgiveness and reconciliation are central themes in Christianity and, in various ways, in other religions… Fear and resentment can easily lead to viewing punishment in a vindictive and even cruel way, rather than as part of a process of healing and reintegration into society. Nowadays, ‘in some political sectors and certain media, public and private violence and revenge are incited, not only against those responsible for committing crimes, but also against those suspected, whether proven or not, of breaking the law… There is at times a tendency to deliberately fabricate enemies: stereotyped figures who represent all the characteristics that society perceives or interprets as threatening. The mechanisms that form these images are the same that allowed the spread of racist ideas in their time.’ This has made all the more dangerous the growing practice in some countries of resorting to preventive custody, imprisonment without trial and especially the death penalty.”

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In the modern world, “it is impossible to imagine that states today have no other means than capital punishment to protect the lives of other people from the unjust aggressor.”

All Christians and people of goodwill are today called to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, in all its forms, but also to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) reiterates our call on Malaysia to not just abolish the death penalty in law but also put an end to extrajudicial killings, preventive detention and also life imprisonment.

While crimes ought to be punished, we must recognise repentance, forgiveness, rehabilitation, reintegration into society and human dignity as important principles in sentencing.

In respecting the human person and human dignity, Madpet reiterates the calls for improving of Malaysian lock-ups, detention facilities and prison conditions to come on par with the best international standards. – Madpet

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture

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