Kuala Lumpur, 13 October 2011, 3pm-6pm
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia
Yang Berhormat Senator Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, President of the Senate
Honourable Dato’ Hashim Yusof, Judge in the Federal Court
Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department
Lord Alf Dubs of the UK House of Lords and Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Abolition of the Death Penalty
Honorable Justice Nico Tuijn, Vice-President of the Court of Appeals of Den Bosch, the Netherlands
Professor Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee, Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
Mr. Tony Woon, Secretary-General of the Malaysian Bar
Excellencies, representatives of the Malaysian government
Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives of the diplomatic corps
Distinguished guests from Academia, the law profession, civil society organizations and the general public
Members of the Media
I am pleased to welcome you at this "Public event to promote the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia". With today's seminar the Delegation of the European Union, the Bar Council and the National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) are marking the International Day against the Death Penalty.
We see this seminar not as an isolated event, but as the start of a campaign. In it we hope to engage with the Malaysian Government, with both houses of Parliament, with the law enforcement bodies and the judiciary, with civil society and with the general public. I am grateful to the Honourable Minister Dato' Seri Nazri Aziz for his support to participate in this debate. I am also grateful for the engagement shown by many members of both sides of parliament, including members of the Malaysia-EU Inter-Parliamentary Caucus.
The abolition of the death penalty worldwide is one of the main objectives of the EU’s human rights policy. Where the death penalty still exists, the EU calls for its use to be progressively restricted and we insist on it being carried out according to minimum standards. The EU uses all its available tools of diplomacy and cooperation to work towards the abolition of the death sentence. In 2011 we have granted EUR 8 million (RM 34 million) to civil society organisations around the world working to that end.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the same time, 58 countries worldwide still have the death penalty. In 2010 23 countries are known to have carried out executions. And, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the highest number of executions in the world.
However, there are also positive developments in Asia. Cambodia, Hong Kong, Nepal, Philippines and Timor Leste have abolished the death penalty. Mongolia announced a moratorium. Brunei has not carried out an execution since 1957; South Korea since 1997. No execution has ever taken place in Lao PDR. For the second consecutive year, no executions were recorded in Indonesia in 2010. And no executions happened in Thailand in 2010.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today I venture the opinion that, while Malaysia is a retentionist country, and while reportedly public opinion favours capital punishment, there is a change of mood and atmosphere. A simple indicator is that the number of death sentences far exceeds the number of executions. In 2010 a large number of death sentences were pardoned or commuted. Influential and high-level personalities have spoken out against the death penalty. The Honourable Minister is among them and I salute him for his courage doing so.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If found guilty, the young woman deserves to be punished, there is no doubt. But, I am asking those in favour of the death penalty, does the young woman deserve to be executed, as is the mandatory penalty for drug trafficking? Does her child deserve a life burdened with the memory of her dead mother hanging from the gallows? Would those is favour of the death penalty as an abstract notion still be in favour if the young woman was their mother, their child, their sister, their friend? Would they be willing to carry out the execution? And what if, in whatever way, there had been a miscarriage of justice and the young woman was executed innocent?
Thank you for your attention.