Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Buddhist perspective on the death penalty

A Buddhist perspective on the death penalty

On Sept. 28, the state of Florida executed Manuel Valle after he spent 33 years on death row. On Sept. 21, the state of Georgia took Troy Davis’s life, despite a lack of evidence proving his guilt. On the same day, the white supremacist Lawrence Brewer was killed by lethal injection by the state of Texas, despite the a request by the victim’s family that the district attorney not seek the death penalty.

Buddhists, along with a growing number of members of other religions, believe that the death penalty is fundamentally unethical. From the Buddhist perspective, non-violence, or not harming others, is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings.

Everyone has the ability to uproot negative, self-centered thoughts and instead nourish an open engagement with others. In doing so, we find true happiness and fulfill our potential as human beings. Manuel Valle, Troy Davis, and Lawrence Brewer and the 3,200 inmates on death row will not have this opportunity.

According to Buddhism, everything that happens in our lives is the result of causes and conditions. Nothing happens at random. Every action gives rise to results that we experience immediately or in the future. By not committing any of the five non-virtuous actions (killing, lying, stealing, sexual misconduct, taking intoxicants), we ensure that we ourselves are not victims of murder, theft, etc. Likewise, when we do experience such misfortunes, we recognize that they arise in our lives only because of similar actions we committed in the past.

We bear full responsibility for our present and future lives, both for the positive and negative experiences.

In the works of a great Tibetan scholar, the Sakya Pandita, “Howsoever anyone breaks the law, they may win for a while, but in the end, they lose.” Even though someone may appear to get away with breaking the law, in the long run, he/she will experience the results of the negative action. Karma, the law of cause and effect, is definite and not subject to the inequities and arbitrariness of any legal system. As such, the death penalty is unnecessary, because the person who violates the law by committing murder will definitely bear the horrible, irreversible karmic  consequences.

In the Dhammapada , we find the following verses:

“Whoever harms with violence
those who are gentle and innocent,
to one of these ten states
that person quickly descends:
he would beget
severe suffering;
deprivation and fracturing
of the body; or grave illness, too;
mental imbalance;
trouble from the government;
cruel slander;
loss of relatives;
or obstruction of property.”

Both murderers and supporters of the death penalty deserve our compassion because they will experience the karmic effects of killing. It may seem strange to generate compassion towards those who harm us. Buddha taught that our actions are influenced by causes and conditions; similarly our minds are poisoned by ignorance, attachment and hatred. When our minds are overcome by hatred, at that moment, we go crazy, and we are not able to control ourselves.

One of the defining scholars of Buddhism, Nagarjuna, wrote to a king: “Especially generate compassion for those whose ill deeds are horrible.” Punishment should be carried out with compassion, “not though hatred nor desire for wealth,” or for retribution, since retribution is another name for revenge; “revenge” implies the action is done with anger, and therefore would burden the executioner with hatred and its resultant poor karma.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama signed Amnesty International’s pledge against the death penalty several years ago, and has spoken out against it on multiple occasions. He opposes the death penalty because it punishes the person and not the action.

Buddhism does allow ending the life of another when it is done in self-defense, and the argument could be made that, sometimes, capital punishment could be viewed as a society’s attempt at self-defense. But when there are other means available to prevent a person from harming others, such as imprisonment, it would seem that the less lethal option should be favored.

Countering violence with violence only results in more violence. The true enemy is our own self-cherishing and self-grasping tendencies, and the negative behavior that we engage in to defend, protect, and sustain ourselves even at others’ expense.

Losang Tendrol is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She teaches meditation and Buddhism at the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center in Reston. The Center was founded in 1994 and is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. The Center follows the Gelugpa tradition, the same lineage as His Holiness The Dalai Lama.  - The Washington Post, 26/10/2011, A Buddhist perspective on the death penalty

Call to scrap death penalty for drug traffickers stirs a tempest (NST)

Call to scrap death penalty for drug traffickers stirs a tempest

A BREWING DEBATE: While some urge holding a referendum on the issue, locking away drug kingpins for good is a no-brainer

Four drug traffickers were sentenced to 15 years’ jail and caning at the Kota Baru Sessions Court earlier this month. Their time in jail should be as painful as that of the people whose lives they had destroyed.
Desmond DavidsonTHE clamour to be heard is growing louder by the day. Ever since Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz announced on Oct 12 that the government was considering the possibility of withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms, pro-life groups and advocates probably saw that as a "God send"  for their voices to be heard before the government makes any final decision.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye was among the few prominent people who have waded into the brewing debate.

He has asked the government to take the question to the people.

Lee wants the government to consult the public before a final decision is taken on reviewing the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders.

In plain simple English, Lee said the government's argument to get rid of the death penalty for drug traffickers to save Malaysians who became drug mules abroad was a load of rubbish.

In a statement he made last week, he said: "The reason is not cogent enough to justify the removal of the death penalty much as we want to help save the lives of Malaysian drug mules detained abroad".
Lee said there must be more convincing reasons if the death penalty is to be scrapped.

Lawyer and DAP stalwart Karpal Singh and his lawyer-politician son Jagdeep Singh Deo, too, joined the growing chorus with a piece of their mind.

While echoing Lee's sentiments, Karpal, however, went a step further by calling on the government to hold a plebiscite to obtain public opinion on the contentious issue.

He believed it was important to have strong public opinion on the issue by holding a referendum.

Capital crimes in this country include murder, terrorist acts, treason, kidnapping, rape, possession of firearms and, of course, drug trafficking.

The Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, under Section 39B, provides for the mandatory death sentence for possessing and distributing drugs.

But the use of the death penalty is highly controversial.

When the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended to add Section 39B, it was drawn up to act as a stiff deterrent to the drug scourge sweeping the country.

The penalty is so stiff that mere possession of 200g of ganja, or cannabis as it is known elsewhere in the world, is enough to put anyone away for 20 years. Trafficking in more than 200g of dangerous drugs carries the death sentence.

There are 930 prisoners on death row as of Oct 10, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop told the Dewan Rakyat, including drug traffickers.

According to a report by Australia's ABC News in August this year, the number of inmates on death row for drug offences is over 300 over the past five years.

This shows that even with the threat of death, Section 39B as a deterrent was not exactly a resounding success.

I for one would like to join the Lees and Karpals and say: Abolish the death penalty. We do not need to play God.

Christians would be familiar with the 10 Commandments. One of them simply states: "Thou shall not kill". 
This is interpreted by many as not to kill for any reason.

I am sure such commandments are found in the teachings of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and all the other religions you can think of.

The next question that would be asked is: "What is the appropriate sentence then?"

I would opt for a very long sentence -- life with no possibility of parole. It is a fact that drugs had destroyed countless lives and broken many families.

Make their time in jail as painful as that of the people they had destroyed. Don't give them a chance to get out of jail to continue destroying people's lives.

Like the proverbial saying, lock them up and throw the key away.

Let these traffickers rot in jail.

Broaden proposal to scrap death penalty

Broaden proposal to scrap death penalty

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 18:15
THE Malaysian government’s proposed review of the death penalty should extend to all capital offences and accompanied by an immediate moratorium on all executions.

On Oct 20, de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced that the government would consider replacing the mandatory death penalty for drug offences with prison sentences. He also said that such a review would entail a moratorium on executions for drug offences.

Amnesty International welcomes this proposal and hopes that it will lead to the quick abolition of the death penalty for drug offences. However, the government should go further and conduct a review of all death penalty provisions.

The government should immediately extend a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.

Under Malaysian law, the death penalty applies to a host of crimes ranging from treason to assisting in suicide. For murder and drug trafficking, the death penalty is mandatory.

Mandatory death sentences prevent judges from exercising their discretion and from considering all factors in a case, including extenuating circumstances, thus adding arbitrariness to the already unacceptably cruel and harsh penalty.

Mandatory death sentences are contrary under international human rights standards.

Nazri said that most of the estimated 900 death row prisoners in Malaysia were sentenced for drug offences. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, suspects are automatically presumed guilty of drug trafficking if found in possession of illegal drugs over specified weights. This provision reverses the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, which is essential to a fair trial.

The government has urged clemency for Malaysians facing the death penalty for similar offences abroad, Nazri noted. In 2010, for example, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister requested clemency for Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian sentenced to hang under Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug offences.

Malaysia’s national human rights institution, Suhakam, welcomed the government’s “proposal to review and ultimately to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders”.

In March 2012, the Malaysian Bar called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and the repeal of death penalty laws.

Malaysia should take the opportunity of this review to join a trend among Asean members in taking positive steps away from the death penalty.

On Oct 15, the Singapore government proposed amendments to replace mandatory death penalty with discretionary sentencing in some cases. It said that it had deferred executions while the mandatory death penalty was under review.

In its 2009-2013 National Human Rights Action Plan, the Thai government has pledged to review its death penalty laws.


- Malay Mail, 30/10/2012,  Broaden proposal to scrap death penalty




The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) welcomes the proposal to review and ultimately
to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders, as  announced by the Minister in the Prime
Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, which will allow the court the liberty  and discretion to determine punishment based on  the gravity of the offence.This move is in line with the spirit of Article 3 and Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) respectively that reaffirm the right of a person to life and the right not to be subject to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is also in
line   with  the  United  Nations   General    Assembly    Resolutions,   first adopted    in  2007,  calling  for a moratorium on executions, with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty.

The   Commission    has   consistently  called  for   the   Government   to   consider   a   moratorium   on  the death penalty or commuting this form of punishment to life imprisonment, especially for those who have been on  death   row   for   more   than   five   years. It  also   wishes   to  call   upon   the   Government   to review   the relevance    and  effectiveness   of  capital  punishment   and  to  join  the  other   140   UN member   states   to completely   abolish  the  death   penalty.   The   Commission   will   continue  to   support  the   Government   in realising full compliance with international human rights principles and norms specifically the UDHR.

                                                       -   END -


The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
22 October 2012

                                              “Hak Asasi Untuk Semua”
                                                “Human Rights For All”

Death knell for death penalty in Malaysia?(The Straits Times)

Death knell for death penalty in Malaysia? 

Malaysian government considering removing capital punishment for drug offences 

Published on Oct 25, 2012

Kedah Customs officials (from left) Azizan Abdullah, P. Jayadevan Naidu, Abd Aziz Abdul Latif and Yusoff Ibrahim at a press conference on Wednesday where they displayed synthesised drugs, known as syabu, found in a hidden compartment of a bag. -- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 
KUALA LUMPUR - As soon as the plane hits the runway in Malaysia, a flight attendant's cheery voice greets passengers with a warm welcome. Then comes the not-so-cheery part: a warning that there is a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

Now a minister says the government is considering removing the death sentence for drug offences, offering a glimmer of hope to lawyers and civil liberties groups who have campaigned for years against capital punishment.

On Wednesday, de facto law minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said he will submit a proposal to the Cabinet to defer the death sentences passed on 675 convicted drug traffickers in the country, while the government reviews the death penalty for drug offences.

The majority of drug trafficking arrests are of low-ranking "drug mules" - smugglers working for drug syndicates - who are more visible and easily apprehended. Drug kingpins are rarely caught and simply hire more mules.- The Straits Times, 25/10/2012, Death knell for death penalty in Malaysia?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

900 on death row for drug trafficking may get reprieve(Star)

 Thursday October 25, 2012

900 on death row for drug trafficking may get reprieve


SOME 900 Malaysians and foreigners on death row for drug trafficking may get a reprieve on their sentences pending a study to abolish the death penalty, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

“A proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet by next week to approve the moratorium on death sentences pending the outcome of a study by the Attorney-General’s Chambers to abolish the death penalty for those convicted under Section 52(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act,” he told reporters here after meeting a delegation of Indonesian lawmakers from the Indonesian-Malaysian Cau­cus in Parliament House.

The 900 include 86 Indonesians, with 75 of them in jail for drug offences, nine for murder, one sentenced under the Kidnapping Act 1961 and another under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971.

The cases of 75 Indonesian nationals sentenced to death for drug trafficking will be submitted to the Cabinet pending the final outcome of the Government’s review on the death sentences, Nazri said.

“We can’t have a holistic solution on the abolition of the death sentence. If we wait, by that time many of them may be hung,” he said.

Nazri also noted that imposing death sentences on drug mules may not be a proportionate punishment as opposed to that for murderers.

“How can we seek clemency for Malaysian drug mules sentenced to death in other countries when we hang their nationals here for such offences?” he added. - The Star, 25/10/2012, 900 on death row for drug trafficking may get reprieve

Friday, October 26, 2012


see also:

298 shot dead by Malaysian police since 2007 - 151 Indonesians, 134 Malaysians,

Press statement: 24rd October 2012

SUARAM was not shocked to see Free Malaysia Today article titled “Cops killed nearly 300 since 2007” dated 23rd October 2012. The numbers clearly reflects the common unofficial Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the force in Malaysia, “Shoot to Kill”

The question is, was there anyone accountable for these atrocities done by the police force in this country? In few cases, there were cops been charged but how many of them? The 298 died were not even brought to the court and proven guilty for their charge.

The model justifications for killings by the police are:
1. The police are very quick in establishing the claim that the victims are criminals.
2. They police acted on self defense
3. The victims attacked the police using parang
4. The victims are linked to gangsterism
5. The victims are perpetrators of other previous crimes in the past

For instance, our records show:

·         21 Aug 2012: Entrepreneur D.Dinesh, 26 years old shot dead in Ampang. Police claim he attacked them with parang.

·         13 Nov 2012: Two youths Mohd Shamil Hafiz Shafie and Mohd Khairul Nizam Tuah was shot dead at Glenmarie. Police claimed they attacked police with parang.

·         26 April 2010: 15 years old  Aminulrasyid Amzah shot dead in Shah Alam. Police labelled him as criminal.

Is this the best the police can do?  This is unacceptable for a professional force, which claimed to the public that its officers had undergone professional trainings on handling weapons and dealing with suspects.

The highest law of the country, the Federal Constitution, secures the right to life of each individual under Article 3. Furthermore, Malaysia as a member of the United Nations (UN) disrespects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 3, which says ‘Everyone has the right to life, to be free and to feel safe’.

If all the accusation and judgments towards a suspect can be done by the Royal Police of Malaysia, why do we need the court of law? The person is already a criminal before he is proven guilty by the court of law.

The pathetic and saddest part will be to run up and down to seek justice for the 298 dead bodies murdered mercilessly by the police. Why the family members of the victim do have to run up and down pressuring the government to take action against the police? How many memorandums the family has to submit to the authorities before any meaningful actions are taken?

We need to put an end to these senseless shooting sprees. The Najib administration must set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) immediately. Every death must be investigated automatically without the pressure from the public. A thorough and open investigation is needed to prove the transparency and credibility of the force in taking action on errant police officers.  The police investigating the police mechanism are the mirror of failed reforms as can be seen from past records and coupled with the lackadaisical approach of the police on the safety of individuals.

It appears that many more will be killed by the police for many more years to come.

From the desk of Right to Justice,

298 shot dead by Malaysian police since 2007 - 151 Indonesians, 134 Malaysians,

The 'shoot to kill' actions by the Malaysian police have long been condemned by Malaysians and justice loving persons. Worse still is the police alleged branding these persons as 'criminals' (suspects of alleged crimes are not criminals, as the law presumes innocence until proven guilty). Maybe, some proceedings should be instituted to confirm that these persons were in fact guilty of the crimes that they normally are alleged of being involved by the police in the media. These allegations should really never be made at all - more so since the allegations are being levied against persons already dead killed by the police.... and as such has no way of defending themselves against the alleged crimes they are supposed to have committed, or alleged to have been involved in.

When a person is shot dead by the police, the only question is whether the police were justified in killing them - remembering always that the duty of the police is only the arrest suspects.... The 'shoot to kill' conduct is unacceptable. It does not help matters when we have many TV serials & movies that propagate that it best to shoot and kill 'criminals' - as the criminal justice system does not work and the bad guy with good lawyers can always get off scot free. This is a 'far right' position, and it certainly is not the Malaysian position for we believe in the rule of law.

Inquests (or rather public transparent independent inquiries) must certainly certainly be held to determine whether the police action that caused the deaths are justified. Do our police shoot to kill, or are they instructed to do the best to arrest the suspects? At which part of the body did they shoot?.... 

The excessive number of deaths by police shootings cements, in the public mind, the perception that law enforcement officers are either negligent or reckless in the performance of their duties.  Nothing less than an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation that includes a holistic and inclusive examination of all the relevant facts will assuage the publics concern regarding the integrity and credibility of the police force .- Ragunath Kesavan, President of the Malaysian Bar, 28 April 2010

The Royal Malaysian Police and Malaysian government must now take steps to observe the UN recommendations to a development of non-lethal incapacitated weapons for use in appropriate situations, with a view to restraint application of means, capable of causing death or injury to persons.  - Nora Murat,Executive Director of Amnestry International Malaysia

Do Malaysian police have tasers, etc ....i.e. non-lethal weapons capable of incapacitating suspects who then can be arrested and NOT killed?

298 shot dead by police since 2007

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 23, 2012): Nearly 300 people have been shot dead by the police since 2007, with a large number of them being Indonesians.

In a written reply, the Home Ministry said a total of 298 people of various nationalities were shot dead between 2007 and August this year. Out of this number, Indonesians accounted for 151 alleged criminals who were shot dead.

Malaysians were the second largest group with 134 people, followed by Vietnamese (five), Myanmarese (three), Thais (two), Nigerian (one), Liberian (one) and another person of unknown nationality.

"In 2007, a total of 13 people were shot dead, while in 2008 ( 85), 2009 (88), 2010 (45), 2011 (30) and up to August this year (37).

The ministry was replying to Dr Michael Jeyakumar (PSM-Sungai Siput) who had asked to state the number of people shot dead by police between 2007 and 2012 according to nationality, age, gender, the type of offences and the place they were shot.

He also asked if the ministry plans to have an inquest for the cases.

Of the 298 people shot dead, the age of 116 could not be determined while 179 were between 19 and 60 years old. Only three were between 16 and 18 years old. None were 60 or older. Of the total number shot, only two were women. 

The ministry also said 53 people were shot in Selangor, followed by in Kuala Lumpur (16), Johor (14), Penang (14), Perak (11) and Negri Sembilan (10).

"As for inquests, that is to be determined by the courts." 

The ministry also revealed that the case files of those who were shot dead by the police were classified as "sudden death reports. The police will keep and maintain these records.- The Sun Daily, 23/10/2012, 298 shot dead by police since 2007

Cops killed nearly 300 since 2007

Patrick Lee | October 23, 2012
More than half of those shot dead were Indonesians, Hisham tells Parliament.
KUALA LUMPUR: Police have killed nearly 300 people since 2007, Parliament was told.

More than half of those killed were Indonesians, according to figures provided by Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in a written reply to Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (PSM-Sungai Siput) yesterday.

He said that Indonesians accounted for 151 out of a total of 298 alleged criminals shot dead between 2007 and August 2012.

Malaysians accounted for the second largest group, with 134 people dead. Next come Vietnamese (5), Myanmarese (3) and Thais (2). During the same period, police also killed one Nigerian, one Liberian and another person of unknown nationality.

Most of the fatal shootings occurred in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, 26 Malaysians and 58 Indonesians were killed. In 2009, 48 Malaysians and 34 Indonesians were killed.

Of the total, 142 people were aged between 21 and 40. Three were between 16 and 18 years. None was 60 or older.

Only two of the 298 were women.

It was also revealed that a large number of the cases involving people getting shot are from Selangor (53 cases). They were followed by Kuala Lumpur police (16), Johor (14), Penang (14) and Perak (11).

According to Hishamuddin, these deaths accounted for a total of 145 cases, and that they were classified as “sudden deaths”. Free Malaysia Today, 23/10/2012, Cops killed nearly 300 since 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Five Filipinos on Death Row in Malaysia were granted clemency

Death sentence on OFW meted out by Malaysian court under appeal

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Embassy in Malaysia on Friday said that the death penalty imposed on a Filipino woman for drug trafficking by a Kuala Lumpur court was on appeal and that the sentence would not be carried out anytime soon. 

The Shah Alam High Court meted the death penalty on the Filipino on Sept. 28 after finding her guilty of trafficking 800 grams of heroin and morphine. Attending the sentencing were court-appointed counsel and two Embassy representatives.

“Her defense counsel filed a notice of appeal before the Malaysian Court of Appeal right after the sentence was imposed by the lower court. Appeal proceedings in Malaysia generally take some two years or even more. Even after a guilty verdict is handed down at that level, the case can be elevated to the Federal Court. 

In the event that the Federal Court will uphold the capital punishment conviction, an application for an executive clemency will be undertaken,” consul general Medardo Macaraig said in a statement.

The consul added that the embassy “is not leaving any stone unturned in providing assistance to her.”
Macaraig said the Filipino woman was represented by legal counsel during the criminal trial, and embassy representatives attended her hearings right from the start and have been visiting her in jail.

She said the embassy was also in “constant communication” with the convict’s family through the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.

“We still have a long way to go. There is much room for hope,” he added.

The Filipino was apprehended on 28 March 2010 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Vietnam by Malaysian authorities where a bag containing heroin and morphine was seized from her.

She was tried by the high court in Shah Alam, the capital of the Malaysian state of Selangor where the KLIA is located.

During her trial, she claimed that the bag was given to her by a Nigerian on the way to the airport, who is a friend of an acquaintance she met in Malaysia.

When she was apprehended, two agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also interviewed her, Macaraig said.

According to the embassy, five Filipino death row convicts in Malaysia were granted clemency earlier this year.- Inquirer Global Nation, 18/10/2012,Death sentence on OFW meted out by Malaysian court under appeal

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MADPET welcomes move towards abolition of mandatory death penalty for drug offences

Media Statement – 23/10/2012

MADPET welcomes move towards abolition of mandatory
death penalty for drug offences

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) welcomes the Malaysian government move to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, and hope that this is but a start that will end with a total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia. We also call for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition especially the lives of about 640 people on death row in Malaysia currently for drug offences.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz stated that Malaysia is considering withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms.(Star,21/10/2012, Death penalty may be scrapped for drug offences). It is hoped that this indication becomes reality soonest, and that Malaysia would also renew its efforts to save the lives of about “… 250 Malaysians arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death abroad, including in China, Venezuela and Peru..”

The Malaysian government also did acknowledge in the past(Star, 1/11/2009, Malaysian girls easily duped), that many of those who ended up being sentenced to death for drug trafficking were generally ‘drug mules’, and not the real drug traffickers.
Malaysia’s past efforts to save lives of Malaysians sentenced to death, including that of young Sabahan, Yong Vui Kong, who was convicted by the Singaporean courts for drug trafficking and sentenced to death, is most appreciated. The removal of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking from the Malaysian law, would certainly add greater credibility and strength to Malaysia’s plea for clemency for its citizens on death row for drug offences in other jurisdictions.

The Malaysian Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, in particular section 39B provides that any person involved in trafficking of drugs shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and shall be punished on conviction with death. The judges and courts, by reason of the mandatory sentence, are deprived of the option of imposing a lesser sentence, and MADPET believes that this is very wrong. We agree with  what the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) stated, amongst others, that the abolition of the mandatory death sentence will also restore to the judiciary the liberty and discretion to determine punishment based on the gravity of the offence as it should always be.

There are presumptions in the Malaysian Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 Act, amongst others, that one ‘…shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to be trafficking in the said drug...’ if one is found in the possession of certain amounts of certain drugs. By reason of this legal presumption, the onus of proving one’s innocence then shifts to the accused, and this not only onerous but also unjust. This is also contrary to the normal rules of criminal justice whereby the onus of proving one’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt is always be with the prosecution. We urge the Malaysian government remove these unjust legal presumptions, and return the burden of proving the elements that constitute the offence to the prosecution especially for the offence of drug trafficking.

MADPET reiterates its call for the abolition of the death penalty, and for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition.

Charles Hector
for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Maybe at last no more death penalty for drug mules

Below, a New Straits Times Editorial of 23/10/2012. This is a mainstream newspaper, which is perceived to be owned/controlled by those alligned with the ruling parties

Amendments are afoot to spare the death sentence on on some drug offences

TWO years ago, when Wisma Putra intervened to seek clemency from the Singaporean government on behalf of Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian convicted by the Singaporean courts for drug trafficking and sentenced to hang, the irony of the situation did not elude anyone. While the Malaysian government, political parties and non-governmental organisations were clamouring to save the life of one citizen incarcerated on death row in the neighbouring country, the lives of hundreds of Malaysians hung similarly in the balance on death rows here at home. The attempt to seek a commutation for Yong was an indication of the value of even one citizen's life; but that the same value was not accorded to citizens on this side of the border smacked of hypocrisy.

But, thanks to some 250 other Malaysians suspected of being drug mules and detained by foreign nations that actively practise capital punishment, the lives of about 640 people on death row in Malaysia for drug offences could change for the better. Previously, the government's response to such situations has been to promise to see to it that the accused has fair legal representation; other than that, it would not interfere in another country's application of its domestic law. However, the increase in such occurrences, coupled with tearful pleas from broken-hearted parents of what are mainly young and foolish mules, seem to have necessitated a change of response. But, obviously, Malaysia can only plead for leniency or mercy if it proves itself to be just as lenient or merciful. Hence, the move to reform drug penalty laws on the domestic front.

It is good that we are moving one step closer to removing the death penalty for drug mules, with discussion in government for a suspension of executions until the matter is settled. If the amendment is adopted, current death row inmates will have the opportunity to apply for re-sentencing, to which the government is recommending a minimum of 30 years. But, ideally, the death penalty should be abolished altogether, and not just in cases that involve low-level drug mules. For, while drugs remain a scourge on society and a concerted effort must be made to fight the drug war, there is still no scientific evidence that the death penalty works as a deterrent to drug trafficking or the huge business of its production and sale. As the experience of many countries, including Malaysia, has shown, most of those caught under draconian drug laws are not the big-timers the laws are meant to target. The taking of a human life by the state in such offences should thus be carried out as sparingly as possible. - New Straits Times, 23/10/2012, Editorial, Stay of Execution

Death penalty for killing a burglar that broke into your home unwarranted

Some thief breaks into your home, and in the ensuing scuffle ends up death. Is it right for you to be charged with murder? I think not...

PETALING JAYA: Several groups are calling for a judicial review into the death sentence imposed on two Indonesian brothers charged with killing a burglar.

National Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the sentence was too extreme and would have implications on the way people react to situations that involved their own personal safety and security.

On Thursday, a High Court in Shah Alam sentenced two brothers to death for the murder of a 26-year-old man who had broken into a shophouse in Sepang on Dec 3, 2010.

The burglar had entered the shophouse via a ceiling and fell into the room where the brothers and a Malaysian co-worker were sleeping.

While the Malaysian fled to call the police, the two brothers dealt with the burglar, who later died due to blunt force trauma.

Referring to the case, Lee said the incident involved someone who had gained illegal entry into a building and was motivated by a criminal intent.

“In such cases, it is normal for the occupants to react spontaneously to restrain an intruder who may pose a danger to them,” he said.

Bar Council vice-president Christopher Leong also said the death sentence was unwarranted.

“People have a right to self defence in life-threatening situations,” he said.

However, he stressed that people should not take the law into their own hands.

Leong also said the Bar Council was against the death penalty.

Taman Gasing Indah Rukun Tetangga chairman Eric Chew described the judgment as shocking.

“This was a hot topic in the coffeeshop this morning. People feel disturbed that their right to self defence has now come into question.”

Taman Tun Dr Ismail Resident Association chairman Mohd Hatim Abdullah also said a judicial review was necessary in view of the need for self-defence.- Star, 20/10/2012, Groups: Review death sentence

Death penalty may be scrapped by Malaysia for drug offences

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) reiterates its call for the abolition of the death penalty. It is good that the Malaysian government is seriously looking into the 'possibility' of withdrawing the mandatory death penalty for drug mules.

In Malaysia, when you are found to be in possession drugs above a certain weight, you are presumed in law to be a 'drug trafficker', when the fact of the matter is that these persons are more likely just 'drug mules', and in some cases were even ignorant of the fact that they had any drugs in their possession.  

When drugs are found in your car, your room or in your possession, the law presumes that it is your drugs, and you then have to prove that it is not yours. How exactly would you be able to prove that the drug that was found in your car boot or under your bed was not yours? After all, it could very well have been placed by some other... 

Our current laws concerning drug trafficking is unjust as it relies very much on legal presumptions, rather than placing the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt of all elements that constitute the crime on the prosecution as is done for almost all other crimes. 

Mandatory sentences remove from the judges the discretion when it comes to sentencing, which normally depends not just on the proof of guilt but also other factors and circumstances. A plea of guilty by the accused person normally would result in reduction of the sentence by a third - but alas, when the only available sentence is a mandatory sentence, more so the death penalty, these factors that a judge will normally take into account in sentencing becomes irrelevant.

Mandatory death penalty, as a first step, must be removed from our statute books. Legislative can fix minimum and/or maximum sentences, but the didiscretion as to sentencing must always rest with the judiciary.   

PADANG RENGAS: The Government is looking into the possibility of withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Attorney-General's (A-G) Chambers would study the suitability of the move.

“One of the main reasons is because there are close to 250 Malaysians arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death abroad, including in China, Venezuela and Peru.

“It is difficult to justify our appeal to these countries not to hang them when our own country has the mandatory death sentence,” he said in a press conference in Sauk, near here yesterday.

Convicted drug traffickers in the country now face the mandatory death sentence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Nazri, who is also the de facto Law Minister, said he would need to seek Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's view before discussing the suggestion with the A-G.

“If the Government is going ahead with the suggestion, we need to have a moratorium on death sentences from being carried out for those who are convicted in Malaysia.

“We are considering an alternative of 30 years' jails or more and allowing judges to have discretionary power under the Act,” he said.

On the issue of porn blog duo Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, Nazri said he would refer the matter to the A-G's Chambers.
“We need to look into what Malaysian laws they have broken. But also we need to remember that anything that is morally wrong does not necessarily mean that it is legally wrong.

“We definitely do not condone the act. This is what happens when there is absolute freedom of expression,” he said. - Star Online, 21/10/2012, Death penalty may be scrapped for drug offences