Friday, October 10, 2014

Stop executing criminals with mental problems

0:22AM Oct 10, 2014 By Liew Chin Tong

Stop executing criminals with mental problems

MP SPEAKS This year, the 12th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which is celebrated on Oct 10 every year, focuses on drawing attention to people with mental health problems who are at risk of execution under the death sentence of the state.

While the ultimate goal of the abolitionists is to end the death penalty, they are also committed to seeing international human rights standards implemented, pending that aim being achieved.

Among these is the requirement that persons with mental illness or intellectual disabilities should not face the death penalty.

The death penalty is a controversial subject in most societies.

The most important argument against the death penalty is that it is irreversible upon execution of a person, even if found innocent much later.

In Malaysia, a parliamentary roundtable was held in June 2011 which reached the view that there should be:
  1. A moratorium on execution, upon a thorough review of the death penalty; and
  2. An immediate end to mandatory death sentences by returning discretion to the judges.
There has not been much progress since the June 2011 meeting, apart from the attorney-general’s commitment to review the death penalty, following the framework of Malaysia's commitment in its Universal Periodic Review report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Failure to deter crimes

One aspect that requires attention relates to mandatory death sentences for drug offences.

I would like to refer to a parliamentary reply by the home minister in response to my question in March 2011.

The reply states that out of the total number of Death Row inmates executed between 1960 and 2011, 51 percent, or 228 out of 441 persons, were for drug convictions.

Of the inmates on Death Row, as of 2011 statistics, 67 percent (479 out of 696 persons) are there after conviction on drug offences.

It is alarming that when I next received another parliamentary reply in June 2013, there were already 964 inmates in the Death Row, compared with 696 in February 2011.

This is a whopping increase of 38 percent. From what I understand, most of the new death row inmates were convicted under drug offences.

Such an increase shows that the death penalty fails to deter the occurrence of crime in the first place.

Mercy for drug mules

Many of those convicted under drug offences are drug mules of very young age; this category of offenders should be distinguished from hardened drug traffickers.

Singapore recently amended its law to allow drug mules on death row who cooperate with the prosecution to be re-sentenced.

Thus far, two Malaysians – Yong Vui Kong and Cheong Chun Yin – have been given a second chance in life.

On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, I urge the Malaysian government to commit to the following:
  • To impose a moratorium on executions, pending a thorough review of the death penalty;
  • To return discretion to the judges by removing the mandatory death penalty; and,
  • To improve the prison conditions for Death Row inmates.

LIEW CHIN TONG is the MP for Kluang and DAP national political education director.

Source: Malaysiakini, 10/10/2014,  Stop executing criminals with mental problems

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