Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Archbishop hails changes to death penalty

Archbishop hails changes to death penalty

Archbishop Nicholas Chia has welcomed proposed changes to the death penalty law in Singapore.

“The changes to the death penalty law are a significant step in the right direction,” he said in a statement to CatholicNews.

“The Church upholds that every human life is precious and must be protected from conception to death. Society today should be moving towards more humane ways of restoring justice where there is the possibility of reforming and changing the offender,” he said.

Under changes proposed in Singapore’s parliament on July 9, mandatory death sentences will no longer be passed for certain instances of drug trafficking and murder.

The courts will be allowed to decide on a death sentence or life imprisonment in these cases.

The Catholic Medical Guild (CMG), in a statement to the CatholicNews, said the amendments are “a move in the right direction towards a more just law concerning penalties for drug trafficking and murder”.

The CMG added that in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II has shown that “the ‘gospel of life’ is indeed at ‘the heart of Jesus’ message’ and has repeatedly defended the sacred value of human life ‘from the very beginning until its end’”.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church’s traditional teaching “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”.

Today, however, “because of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime”, such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent”.

Pope Benedict XVI, during a general audience on Nov 30 last year, encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty.

Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the topic, the pope said he hoped their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate” the penalty.

The conference was organised by the Italian-based Sant’Egidio Community under the theme, No Justice without Life.

The pope told the group that he applauded “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order”.

It has been estimated that around a third of the world’s countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code.- TheCatholicNews - JULY 29, 2012, Vol 62, No 15

Death penalty not deterring drug trade

See also :Maintaining the death penalty is against Malaysian culture and values

 Death penalty not deterring drug trade

Patrick Lee | March 19, 2012 
More people have been arrested over drug dealing, despite the shadow of the mandatory death penalty hanging over their heads.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s mandatory death penalty on drug-related crime does not appear to have stopped drug dealers .

In fact, it was the reverse: there has been a steady increase over the last three years, according to a reply in Parliament.

In a written answer to Bukit Gelugor MP (DAP) Karpal Singh, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that 3,845 people had been arrested for drug dealing in 2011.

“Police statistics for the arrests of drug dealers under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for the past three years (2009 to 2011) have shown an increase,” he said.

According to him, in 2009, 2,955 people were arrested under this section. In 2010, 3,700 people were arrested.

Karpal had asked if the 1983 amendments to the Act – which would slap serious drug offenders with capital punishment – had been effective in reducing drug-related crime.

To this, Hishammuddin said that the increase was caused by the trade’s ability to make a lot of money quickly; globalisation, creating a borderless world, which opened up a space for drug-dealing; and the “easier process” in which synthetic drugs were made, through the availability of chemical formulas and ingredients.

Previously, the Bar Council said that 32 countries around the world had death penalty for drug-related crime.

Of this number, 13 of them still enforced the mandatory death penalty, which included Malaysia.

The Bar Council’s president Lim Chee Wee said that most drug traffickers and dealers were “low-ranking drug mules”, who were the easiest (in the trade) to apprehend.

He added that there was no proof that the death penalty helped to cut down on drug-related crime. Free Malaysia Today News, 19/3/2012, Death penalty not deterring drug trade

Maintaining the death penalty is against Malaysian culture and values

In Malaysia, when a person is sentenced to death, most of the time it is not highlighted in the media or by the government. When an execution takes place, there is no media coverage before the event, and certainly also no highlighting of it when it happens.

The figures and data of persons sentenced to death - or executed is also not highlighted. in fact, you do not even find it in the web pages of the Attorney General's Chambers, the Police or even the Home Ministry.

If it is meant to act as a deterrent, then logically, the government must act in such a way - to show people that they really will be punished in that way. In comparison, when it comes to death caused by road accidents, these are highlighted in the media, and there are even notice boards putting fear into people to drive carefully in accordance with the law, which states the number of deaths in these accidents.

Hence, the death penalty, the Barisan Nasional government argues is a deterrent - but alas, their actions do not support this. The failure to highlight these sentences, executions and necessary statistics to put in the fear in others not to commit the crime maybe because the Malaysian government itself is embarrassed of this death penalty in the laws. Remove it then - what is the BN government waiting for.

Now, the only way to get clear statistics about the death penalty is through questions asked in Parliament - and some good MPs and Senators do take the trouble to ask these questions and then circulate the answers... 

Some are just not bothered, for after all it does not affect them or their family, and maybe also because they just do not care. Some do not want to deal with the question of death penalty because Islam provides for death penalty - but the point that must be made is that these death penalty and executions are happening by virtue of civil laws - not Islamic laws, and certainly not in accordance to stringent requirement of evidence as provided for in Islam.

Christianity also sees the death penalty as being a form of punishment as provided for in the Old Testament - but Jesus changes this. We remember the story in the Bible where a women was caught for adultery, and was to be stoned to death in accordance with the Old Testament law. What Jesus did was to stop it? He did not say that it must be proven in accordance to a certain standards before the women be executed by stoning. He challenged the persons who were going to put effect that law by saying that whoever has not sinned shall cast the first stone. And after all had left, he told the woman to go and not sin again. That was a clear law that imposed the death penalty, and Jesus's response must be a guidance for all of us. Forgiveness - and liberty with the advice not to sin again. 

Likewise, in all major religions be it Islam, Christianity, Buddhism - one element is repentance, forgiveness and another chance. You may not want a person guilty of an offence to go free - so sentence him to imprisonment not kill him/her. 

"And early in the morning He came again into the Temple , and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them."

"And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?"

"This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him."

"But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground."

"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."

"When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?"

"She said, No man, Lord."

"And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:2-11 KJV)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Australian mother faces the death penalty

Australian faces death penalty in Malaysia

ASHLEY HALL: The mother of an Australian woman arrested overseas on drug trafficking charges has pleaded with Malaysian authorities to let her daughter come home.

Thirty-four year old Emma Louisa L'Aiguille was arrested in July, when police found about one kilogram of methamphetamine in a car she was driving.

Malaysian laws consider anyone found with more than 50 grams of methamphetamine a drug trafficker, and that crime carries a mandatory death sentence.

Will Ockenden reports.

WILL OCKENDEN: An Australian woman held on drugs charges in a foreign jail, protesting her innocence.

It all sounds very familiar, according to south-east Asian studies expert Dr Marshall Clark.

MARSHALL CLARK: I guess it has echoes with the Schapelle Corby case in Bali which is almost a decade ago now.

WILL OCKENDEN: But in this case the penalty is much harsher.

Emma L'Aiguille is accused of trafficking drugs after being stopped by police while driving a car several weeks ago. Police allege they discovered about a kilogram of methamphetamine under the seat.

The charge of trafficking automatically attracts the death penalty under Malaysian law.

Ms L'Aiguille's mother, Amanda Innes, told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper that she just wants to see her daughter brought home alive.

But Dr Marshall Clark from the Australian National University says Malaysia takes drugs charges very seriously.

MARSHALL CLARK: There is not much nuance in regards to drug trafficking laws. If you have drugs on your possession, in your car, in your bags, your luggage, you are assumed and if it is over a certain amount of course, I think it is over 50 grams of illicit drugs, you are assumed to be a trafficker and you've got to prove somehow or another that you're not and that's the tricky bit.

WILL OCKENDEN: In the past, Malaysia has shown little mercy to foreigners found guilty of drug trafficking.

Two Australians were hanged in 1986, and another in 1993.

MARSHALL CLARK: Since 1964 440 people have been executed for drugs related charges including two Australians who were hung in 1986 for heroin trafficking, fairly well known cases at the time, Barlow and Chambers.

But in recent years there are a lot less in terms of executions despite the number of being sentenced to death being over 300 in the last five years. Despite that large number of being sentenced to deal for drug trafficking, only two have actually been executed.

WILL OCKENDEN: On the 19th of July, Australian officials from the embassy met with Emma L'Aiguille. The Department of Foreign Affairs says Malaysia is well aware the Australian Government is strongly opposed to capital punishment.

A member of her defence team Tania Scievetti says she will fight against a death penalty.

TANIA SCIEVETTI: She was not aware that there were drugs in the car. She doesn't know the whereabouts of the drugs as rather she was not physically there when the police examined the vehicle. She was taken away from the vehicle and then the police searched the vehicle in her absence.

WILL OCKENDEN: Emma L'Aiguille's mother, Amanda Innes, is planning to go to Malaysia for the next court hearing in October.

The ANU's Dr Marshall Clark says it'll be a tough, drawn out legal process.

MARSHALL CLARK: This is early days yet. As with Schapelle Corby it took quite a while for everything to be revealed and unravelled and even then there is still lots of loose ends about her particular story.

ASHLEY HALL: Dr Marshall Clark from Australian National University, ending Will Ockenden's report.- The World Today, 2/8/2012, Australian faces death penalty in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the moment that you are arrested with a certain amount of drugs, 2 legal presumptions arise

ONE - You are knowingly in possession of the said drugs

TWO - If above a certain amount in weight, then you are a drug trafficker.

Then, the burden shifts to the accused persons to rebut the said 2 presumptions in court, which really is a near impossible task. 

It is my position that the burden of proving all the elements of any crime must always lie with the prosecution. He who accuses must prove.

MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY - the judge has no discretion when it comes to sentencing, and this too is wrong. Discretion when it comes to sentencing must always have the discretion to impose an appropriate sentence based on the facts and circumstances of each and every case. Parliament(legislative) should not bind the hands of the judiciary and withdraw this discretion. 

DEATH PENALTY must be abolished - in this modern day and age, there is enough options for sentencing, and the time has come when death penalty and corporal punishment need to be abolished. There are just too many flaws in the system that makes death penalty too risky a sentence for there is certainly a likelihood that an innocent person can wrongly be sent to death.


Death in Police Custody - Dead in 5 hours after arrest

Furniture shop worker Looi Chooi Aik was arrested and taken for a urine test. Five hours later he was found dead. The post mortem report said: asphyxia due to hanging.
The police said an officer would be assigned to investigate the case and promised “no cover up”.
I think an independent investigation, not an internal one, is necessary.
Excerpt from a Malaysiakini report:
Man dies in lock-up five hours after arrest
Susan Loone
7:17PM Aug 14, 2012
A 36-year-old man died in police custody yesterday morning, much to the shock of his family, who lodged a report over his death in Jalan Pattani Northeast police headquarters, Penang, today.

The man’s brother-in-law Looi Chooi Aik (above, right) said the family met with one Inspector Azmin in the Tanjong Tokong police station at about 11am this morning and was told that Cheah Chin Lee had died.

Cheah, who works at a furniture shop, was as arrested at about 12am early yesterday morning and was brought to the Jalan Pattani police headquarters for a urine test until 2am, Looi claimed.

It is believed that Cheah was arrested for suspicions of car theft involvement.

“According to this Inspector Azmin, Cheah was brought back to Tanjong Tokong (police station) at about 5am and was found dead 20 minutes later,” Looi, 45, told reporters outside the police headquarters.-