Friday, June 12, 2015

Diplomacy - an important tool to remove death penalty

AICHR: Diplomacy between countries is an important tool to remove death penalty

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government can be pressured to remove the death penalty law if diplomacy is applied diligently by other foreign governments as part of the diplomatic process to extradite a convict from another country.

Using the example of Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar who is currently detained by the authority in Australia after he was sentenced to face death row by the Federal Court for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Malaysia's representative on Asean Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said diplomacy could play a significant role to put a stop to the death penalty practice in any country.

"A foreign government can allow extradition of a person if you take the death sentence off the table, which is what the Australian government said to Malaysia in the case of Corporal Sirul," said Muhammad Shafee during the "Diplomacy and Death Penalty" discussion at the 1st Asean Regional Congress on the Death Penalty today.

He opined that an Asean country that had removed the death penalty could influence the judiciary landscape of another country within the region.

As part of the negotiation, he pointed out a government can relay a message to another nation, "if you want to trade a criminal, you need to remove your death penalty".

However, he said, diplomatic process could also turn ugly as witnessed in the recent Indonesia - Australia relationship that was strained .

"Diplomacy was lost as the two Australians faced the death penalty in Indonesia," he said, adding that media attention also contributed to the inter-government diplomatic row.

"When I took the case of an American lecturer Kerry Lane Wiley who was on trial for bringing in more than 265 gram of cannabis in the late 80's, I requested Wiley's mother not to use the media for his son's ordeal.

"As a result, no United States arrogance versus Malaysia's government stubbornness at that point of time," said Muhammad Shafee, who is also the chairman of AICHR and has been vocal on the removal of the death penalty for a convict.

He firmly believes in rehabilitation of a convicted criminal.

"From my 40 years experience in the legal profession, I have seen hardcore criminals changed and  found a new lease of life," said Shafee.

There were 975 convicts waiting for death sentence in the country when Malaysia voted against a resolution by United Nations General Assembly last December, with 117 nations voting for a moratorium on the abolishment of the death penalty around the world.- The Sun Daily, 12/6/2015

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