Tuesday, March 21, 2006

MALAYSIA:Justice Minister backs abolition of death penalty

21 March, 2006

Justice Minister backs abolition of death penalty

For Nazri Aziz “a life is a life. No one has the right to take someone else's life, even if that person is a murderer”. From 1970 to the present, 359 people have been condemned to death; 159 are on death row.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Malaysian Justice Minister has said he supports abolishing Malaysia's death penalty. "For me, a life is a life. No one has the right to take someone else's life, even if that person has taken another life," Nazri Aziz, minister in charge of law, was quoted as saying to a local newspaper.

The minister’s statement comes as the Malaysian Bar Council launched a campaign for abolishment of the death penalty: “I welcome this proposal. This is definitely something which should be looked into.”

The Council said the death penalty is “barbaric, inhumane and an insufficient deterrent for crime”, and called for an immediate moratorium on all death sentences.

But the minister said this would not be possible: “The death sentence has been part of our laws for a long time. It goes with the fabric of the whole system. After discussions are held, hopefully the attorney general will advise the government.”

Malaysia is one of 76 countries which still impose the death penalty. It is mandatory for murder, for trafficking in heroin, cocaine, opium and marijuana, and for offences against the king. In the national penal code, possession of drugs is presumed to be trafficking.

At his discretion, a judge can also hand down the death penalty – administered by hanging – for crimes like kidnapping, associating with people carrying arms or explosives and waging war against the ruler.

Since 1970, Malaysia has hanged 359 people, 40 of them in the last 10 years. Most were convicted of drug trafficking. There are 159 prisoners on death row.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


(which was adopted at the 60th AGM of the Malaysian Bar on 18/3/2006)

WHEREAS every human being has the inherent right to life;

WHEREAS Malaysia has hanged at least 358 persons between 1981 and 2005;

WHEREAS about 173 persons are on death row as at December 2005;


a) studies conducted throughout the world over the past seventy years have failed t
o find convincing evidence that capital punishment is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment;

b) 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;

c) in the United States over the past twenty years, states with the death penalty in general have had a higher homicide rate than states without the death penalty;

WHEREAS on the other hand the execution of human beings by the State gives an ‘example of barbarity’ to society and legitimizes the taking of human life;

WHEREAS Malaysia lacks safeguards that would ensure a fair trial such as the right to immediate access to a lawyer upon arrest, right to full disclosure of evidence in the possession of the police and prosecution, and has to the extreme prejudice of accused persons loaded a capital crime statute such as the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 ( which generates the largest number of death sentences annually ) with presumptions of trafficking that compromise the presumption of innocence which is integral to any fair and just criminal justice system;


a) it is not possible in any system of human justice to prevent the horrifying possibility of the execution of innocent persons; and

b) the infliction of the death penalty makes wrongful convictions irreversible;


a) 122 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice as opposed to 74 countries which retain the death penalty;

b) An average of three countries have abolished the death penalty each year over the last decade;

c) the trend worldwide has been for the abolition of the death penalty;

WHEREAS the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2005/59 passed in 2005 calls 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;

WHEREAS Article 1 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that ‘ No one within the jurisdiction of a State party to the present Optional Protocol shall be executed ’.

WHEREAS the death penalty has no place in any society which values human rights, justice and mercy;

NOW IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that the Malaysian Bar calls for the:

1) Abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia;

2) An immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition;

3) Commutation of the sentences of all persons currently on death row;

4) Ratification by Malaysia of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Proposers: N.Surendran , Charles Hector, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Sreekant Pillai

* the facts and statistics relied on here are from Professor Roger Hood’s The Death Penalty( A Worldwide Perspective) OUP 2002, Amnesty International and statistics released by the Government of Malaysia.