Wednesday, July 19, 2006

SUN: Govt's faith in death penalty defies facts

Govt's faith in death penalty defies facts
By: (Fri, 14 Jul 2006)

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is disappointed by the statement made by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk M. Kayveas who told Parliament last month that the death penalty deters serious crimes. This statement, reported by Bernama on June 28, cannot be justified by any facts or statistical proof.

On the other hand, studies conducted throughout the world over the past 70 years using various different methodological approaches have failed to find convincing evidence that capital punishment is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment.

Studies conducted in Australia show that abolition of the death penalty had no effect on the homicide rate and in Canada there in fact was a sharp decline in the homicide rate after abolition; In the United States over the past 20 years, states with the death penalty in general have had a higher homicide rate than states without the death penalty.

The deputy minister also went on to say that there will be no abolition of the death penalty as it "safeguards public interest". Surely sending someone to death,

especially when there is the real possibility that an innocent man can be killed is against the public interest.

He is further reported to have said that, "There are enough safeguards in the country's judicial system to ensure that death sentences are not meted out easily."

What safeguards are the honourable deputy minister speaking of? In Malaysia there is no immediate access to a lawyer upon arrest, immediate right to a phone call and no

right to full pre-trial disclosure.

Evidence, reports, statements and witnesses obtained during police investigations that may support the accused's story or bring to light possible defences to the accused could be suppressed if prosecution officers are overly interested in prosecuting. Mostjurisdictions in the Commonwealth and elsewhere have made it mandatory for

immediate full disclosure to the accused person.

It must be reiterated that even in jurisdictions where all these safeguards exist, the number of persons wrongfully

condemned to death have been frighteningly high. Human justice is dangerously fallible, and the only acceptable choice for any civilised nation is to abolish the death penalty.

The fact that a person has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then the Federal Court, and thereafter to the Pardons Board for clemency is grossly insufficient to justify the keeping of the death penalty in our law books. It is laughable that the deputy minister even suggested, at this day and time in Malaysia, that thorough investigations carried out by an experienced and effective police force is yet another safeguard to prevent miscarriage of justice.

Last month, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a law abolishing the death penalty in the Philippines. The number of countries that have done away with the death penalty now stands at 123. The worldwide trend has been towards abolition of the death penalty.

A recent television poll done by RTM2 during the Hello on Two programme on May 7 showed that 64% of Malaysians are for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia. Ê

Further, the Malaysian Bar, which comprises about 12,000 lawyers, is also calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

Madpet calls for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition, and the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.

N. Surendran
and Charles Hector
for Malaysians Against Death
Penalty and Torture

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