Sunday, February 26, 2006


- Prime Minister Abdullah was wrong to endorse the death penalty -

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disturbed by the statement issued by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi justifying the death penalty for drug traffickers as reported by Bernama on 22/2/2006.

The Prime Minister is blindly echoing the flawed and fundamentally mistaken argument that the death penalty deters potential offenders from trafficking in drugs. The fact is that it has never been proven that the death penalty effectively deters the commission of capital crimes. This is proven by studies conducted throughout the world over the past 70 years using various different methodological approaches.

The official report to the United Nations on the death penalty states as follows, “…the low rates of effectiveness of law enforcement, the relative immunity from the law of those who profit most from the trade in drugs and the higher risk of violence and death they most probably run from others engaged in the drug racket, all make it seem implausible that the death penalty in itself will have a marginally stronger deterrent effect than long terms of imprisonment...”

The Prime Minister also failed to take into consideration the great and real risk that innocent persons may be executed under Malaysia’s harsh drug laws. This is a very real danger in view of the fact that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 is tainted with presumptions of trafficking which effectively places the burden of proving innocence upon the accused person. This militates against the fundamental and well established presumption of innocence enshrined in the criminal justice system of all civilized nations.

By reason of being caught in possession of a small amount of drugs, the presumption is activated that the person is a drug trafficker. Many innocent victims may not even have been aware that they are carrying drugs. In a recent case, Msimanga Lesaly, a Nigerian widow and mother of five, was condemned to death by the Malaysian courts despite her protests that she was unaware that she had drugs in her possession. As a result of the presumption of trafficking, she was unjustly forced to try and prove that she was innocent of the offence of trafficking whereas it should have been the task of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was in fact trafficking in drugs. It should also be remembered that the resources of an individual forced to prove her innocence of trafficking is minimal compared to the vast powers and resources of the State in carrying out prosecutions.

It should be noted that the majority of death sentences handed out in Malaysia are for the offence of drug trafficking. In 6 December 2005, it was disclosed in Parliament that of 52 people who were sentenced to death from 2004 until July 2005, 36 were convicted for drug offences.

The tendency throughout the world has been towards the abolition of the death penalty, with an average of 3 countries abolishing the death penalty over the last decade. At present 122 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice as opposed to 74 countries which retain the death penalty.

Crucially, in 2005 the UN Commission on Human Rights passed Resolution 2005/59 that called upon all states to abolish the death penalty and states that the abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of the right to life of every human being;

It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister of Malaysia did not take into account the above facts when he endorsed the barbarous practice of executing human beings.

We call upon the government of Malaysia to abolish the death penalty for all offences in Malaysia and for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition.

Charles Hector
N. Surendran
Salbiah Ahmad

for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
26th February 2006

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