Malaysia to stop ex­e­cu­tions

• Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment manda­tory for mur­der and car­ried out by hang­ing

Business Day - - INTERNATIONAL - Agency Staff

Malaysia has de­cided to abol­ish the death penalty, a se­nior min­is­ter said on Thurs­day, with more than 1,200 peo­ple on death row set to win a re­prieve fol­low­ing a groundswell of op­po­si­tion to it.

Ex­e­cu­tions are manda­tory for mur­der, kid­nap­ping, pos­ses­sion of firearms and drug traf­fick­ing, among other crimes, and is car­ried out by hang­ing —a legacy of Bri­tish colo­nial rule.

Hu­man Rights Watch hailed the “fab­u­lous news”.

Its deputy direc­tor for Asia, Phil Robert­son, said that the move will in­crease pres­sure on other coun­tries in the re­gion to fol­low suit.

The gov­ern­ment de­cided to scrap cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment be­cause the Malaysian pub­lic had shown they were against the death penalty, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mul­ti­me­dia min­is­ter Gobind Singh Deo said.

“I hope the law will be amended soon,” he said.

Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Liew Vui Keong re­port­edly said ear­lier on Thurs­day that there would be a mora­to­rium on ex­e­cu­tions for in­mates on death row.

“Since we are abol­ish­ing the sen­tence, all ex­e­cu­tions should not be car­ried out,” Liew was quoted as say­ing in the news­pa­per Star.

Liew said the amended law will be put be­fore par­lia­ment on Oc­to­ber 15.

The an­nounce­ment is “an en­cour­ag­ing sign”, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s Kumi Naidoo said in a state­ment.

“There is no time to waste – the death penalty should have been con­signed to the his­tory books long ago.”

The mora­to­rium on the death penalty af­fects, among oth­ers, two women ac­cused of as­sas­si­nat­ing the es­tranged half­brother of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2017.

A Malaysian court ruled in 2017 that the case could pro­ceed against In­done­sian na­tional Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam af­ter the mur­der of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur Air­port.

Aus­tralian cit­i­zen Maria Elvira Pinto Ex­posto, 54, who was found guilty of drug smug­gling by an ap­peals court in May, will win a re­prieve.

“The re­prieve can be in the form of a life sen­tence,” Gur­dial Singh, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Hu­man Rights So­ci­ety, said.

Two Chilean tourists, on trial for the mur­der of a Malaysian man, would also have faced the death penalty if they are found guilty of mur­der.

The abo­li­tion of the death penalty could also pave the way for the extradition to Malaysia of a con­victed hit­man in the high­pro­file mur­der of a Mon­go­lian model who was the lover of one of former prime min­is­ter Na­jib Razak’s close as­so­ciates.

Former Malaysian po­lice of­fi­cer Sirul Azhar Umar was con­victed in Malaysia for the mur­der of Al­tan­tuya Shaari­ibuu in 2006, but fled to Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralia has said it can only ex­tra­dite him if Malaysia abol­ishes the death penalty.

In April 2017, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional ranked Malaysia 10th in the use of death penalty among the 23 coun­tries that car­ried out cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in 2016.

From 2007 to 2017, 35 peo­ple were hanged, the New Straits Times news­pa­per said.

A to­tal of 1,267 pris­on­ers are on death row, mak­ing up 2.7% of the 60,000-strong prison pop­u­la­tion. Malaysian rights ad­vo­cates wel­comed the de­ci­sion, say­ing there has never been any proof that manda­tory death sen­tences de­terred of­fend­ers from vi­o­lent or drug-re­lated crimes.

“The death penalty is bar­barous, and unimag­in­ably cruel,” N Suren­dran, an ad­viser with the Lawyers for Lib­erty rights group, said.

Once cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral author­ity to fight for the lives of Malaysians fac­ing death sen­tences abroad, he added.

Only 23 coun­tries re­tain the death penalty, with China be­lieved to be the “world’s top ex­e­cu­tioner”, ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional in its re­port in Septem­ber on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in 2017.

A to­tal of 993 ex­e­cu­tions were recorded in 2017 in 23 coun­tries, but Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s num­bers do not in­clude the “thou­sands” it says are be­lieved to have been ex­e­cuted in China, which clas­si­fies this in­for­ma­tion as a state se­cret.

Ex­clud­ing China, Amnesty says Iran, Saudi Ara­bia, Iraq and Pak­istan — in that or­der — car­ried out 84% of all ex­e­cu­tions in 2017.

In South­east Asia, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land have death penalty laws.



Re­prieve: Venkateswari Ala­gen­dra, right, and Saraswathy Devi, left, lawyers for Chilean mur­der ac­cused Felipe Osi­adacz and Fer­nando Can­dia speak af­ter a hear­ing. The ac­cused’s lives could be spared if the death penalty is abol­ished.

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