Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Selangor Sultan saves a life in commuting death sentence of Filipino drug trafficker

Filipino drug convict in Malaysia spared from death penalty

Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Malaysia's pardons board has commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence on a Filipino woman convicted of smuggling 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine at Kuala Lumpur's airport, the Philippine Embassy in the Malaysian capital said Tuesday.
The embassy said the pardons board of the central state of Selangor headed by Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj on June 15 commuted Jacqueline Quiamno's sentence following clemency requests from the embassy and her family.

The good news comes as the fate of another Filipino woman on death row in Indonesia for illegal drugs remains unclear. Mary Jane Veloso's execution on April 29 was postponed after appeals by the Philippines to allow her to testify against her arrested illegal recruiters.

Quiamno was arrested in 2005 and the Shah Alam High Court handed her a guilty verdict in November 2010. The verdict was affirmed by the Federal Court in July 2013.

The embassy, in a statement conveyed "its heartfelt appreciation to the Sultan of Selangor and the Selangor Pardons Board for this sterling manifestation of benevolence and compassion."

The death penalty remains in the statute books of Malaysia, and local courts continue to impose it in grave offenses. But the embassy said there has been a reluctance to carry it out in recent years pending the government's final decision on the proposal to abolish capital punishment. - Yahoo News, 30/6/2015

259 deaths in police custody since 2000 (FMT)

 A total of 259 deaths in police custody have been investigated from 2000 until now

Here we are just talking about deaths in police custody only - deaths in custody would also happen in prisons, other detention places, etc

The answer in Parliament seems to be just about how many have been investigated - so, how many more are yet to be investigated. 

How many policeman have been taken to court with regard death in custody - unfortunately the Bernama report is vague about this...

Where the death occurs is also of interest - did it happen in the police lock-up? police station during interrogation?  - There are CCTV cameras in the lock up, but when it come to the inquest, the reasons why we cannot see what was recorded....was (1) CCTV has no recording capacity... (2) spoiled... > hopefully now, we have CCTV with recording capacity not just at lock-ups but at all parts of the police station - maybe our policemen should also be equipped with CCTV on their person and on their patrol vehicles ... In Hong Kong, it has been a long time since every movement of the person is recorded, and the accused and the lawyer will be given a CD... very important to ensure that there was no torture...or anything done that was not permitted by law...Malaysia should really be putting that in place...Maybe today Malaysian lock-ups and police station also all have CCTV that records

259 deaths in police custody since 2000

June 15, 2015 
Inquest into 82 cases have been completed, while 12 are still ongoing, and no further action on another 100, says deputy home minister.


KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 259 deaths in police custody have been investigated from 2000 until now, said deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said of the total, the inquests of 82 cases had been completed, while 12 were still ongoing, and no further action on another 100.

“Meanwhile, 34 cases were referred to deputy public prosecutors, 10 to magistrates, 16 are still under investigation and five had been taken to court,” he said in reply to G.Manivannan (PKR-Kapar) at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Manivanan wanted to know the breakdown on the number of inquests pertaining to death-in-custody cases by state, as well as the statistics on policemen who had been tried in court on the matter.

Wan Junaidi said of the 82 inquests which had been completed, Selangor recorded the highest number of cases with 22, followed by Johor (11), Kedah (10), Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan (eight), Penang (seven), Perak (five), Sarawak (four), Kelantan (three), Sabah (two) and Perlis and Terengganu (1).

Whereas for the 12 cases with ongoing inquests, Negeri Sembilan recorded the highest number with three, followed by two cases each in Penang, Selangor and Sabah, as well as one each in Perak, Kuala Lumpur and Johor.

In the meantime, Wan Junaidi said three court cases against police officers for various other offences had been reported in the same period, in which two cases had resulted in conviction, and one was still on trial.

– BERNAMA - FMT News, 1/7/2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

'Pota an open invitation for detainee torture' - Abolish Torture in Malaysia

See also: 

MADPET(26/6/2009):Make Malaysia Torture-Free - Ratify Convention on Torture, Set Up the IPCMC

Join the Campaign by signing the ONLINE PETITION 

Calling on Malaysia to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture


'Pota an open invitation for detainee torture'

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015 can easily open up space for abuse and torture, cautions Malaysian Bar Council president Steven Thiru.

Speaking at the launch of the Joint Campaign for Malaysia's Accession to the Convention Against Torture (ACT4CAT) at University Malaya today, Thiru (photo) said that Pota in its current form contains many provisions that can be abused.

"Experiences of those held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) are perhaps the best evidence of torture in detention and there is enough in Pota to say that it is a revival of ISA," he said.

He warned that Pota had the potential to be even worse than the ISA as the latter at least defined its targets clearly while the former left the definition of a 'terrorist' wide open.

Plus the fact, he added, that someone who is arrested under Pota just 'disappears into the system'.

Thiru said that anyone arrested under Pota was handled behind closed doors and this could very well lead to torture being used on prisoners.

Thiru explained the situation was exacerbated by Section 10(3) of the controversial act which states that a police officer may '… procure and receive all evidence, whether the evidence be admissible or not under any written law, which he may think necessary or desirable.'

This provision implies that the officer has the sanction to utilise torture to extract evidence and information if he or she  deems it necessary.

'Be serious, stop torture'

"We need to say that we do not want Pota, because it seems that torture can thrive under it and we do not want any law that allows torture," he insisted.

This is one of the reasons why the Bar Council has lent their support to this joint campaign calling for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), he said

Also for the campaign were Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), Suaram, Suhakam and Amnesty International Malaysia.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said they realised  there won't be an overnight change in terms of using torture if the government ratifies UN-CAT.

"It is an ongoing change but what we want is for the Malaysian government to show that it is serious about torture eradication," she said.- Malaysiakini, 26/6/2015

"...Torture is under-reported. That is a simple, plain fact. The numbers are vague and ambiguous because around the world, governments smother the truth to hide incidences of torture. And despite this, the general public consensus tells us that people are fearful of being tortured in the custody of the authorities. People should not need to live in fear. As a global community, we need to move towards recognition of torture as a cruel, inhuman and most importantly, a criminal act that violates the international understanding and acceptance of human rights...

Inmates and detainees are locked behind bars and tucked away from the sight of society. Hidden, the actions of the police force and other authorities remain unknown, hence unquestioned. Hidden, inmates remain vulnerable to torture and cruel treatment with no means of voicing it. Imprisonment for a crime is not a warrant to disregard the rights of an individual. 

Right here, right now, why do we need to address torture in Malaysia? Suaram reports that in 2015, there have been 9 cases of deaths in police custody – 6 in hospital, 1 in lock-up, 1 in prison and 1 in a detention centre, bringing the total number of deaths in police custody to 251 from the year 2000. Amnesty International Malaysia’s focus this year has been in joining the call for the establishment of a dedicated independent police oversight mechanism to tackle the issues of torture and deaths in police custody. 

Incidences of torture and questionable deaths continue to permeate law enforcement agencies. You are probably aware of the recent ghastly discovery of mass graves between the borders of Thailand and Malaysia. Most of the bodies found have either been Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar or economic migrants from Bangladesh. In the past few months, a horror story began playing out at the Thai-Malaysia border. One hundred and thirty-nine graves of victims of human trafficking were discovered, after initial vehement denials of such camps on the Malaysian side. As this story unfolded, 12 police personnel were held on suspicion of having links to people-smuggling camps weeks before the Perlis police chief claimed there were no elements of foul play in 26 of the 139 human remains. Days later on June 22, when 21 bodies were laid to rest, the Home Minister revealed that causes of death included disease, starvation, torture and murder. What has happened and is happening to trafficking victims is barbaric. One of the many things this issue has exposed is how the police are unable to police themselves, and hence why we continue to advocate for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission or IPCMC. Further, an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, Ali Abdul Jalil, who is facing three counts of sedition and was shuttled between police stations in Selangor and Johor in 2014, had alleged being punched in his stomach, slapped in his face, and hit on his leg with a baton and rubber pipe whilst detained at the Sungai Buloh prison. To date, Ali’s allegations of torture have not been investigated. 

A system of accountability is the essence of the UN Convention Against Torture. At the local level, a signatory is required to implement mechanisms to address the issue of accountability in torture cases. At the global level, signatories to the convention would be held accountable to international values and standards against torture. Ratification of the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol will signal the Malaysian government’s effort to eradicate torture, ensure that torturers are found out and brought to book as well as demonstrate the intention to protect from harm those deprived of their liberty. 

The ratification of the UN CAT and its Optional Protocol will not mark a swift end to torture practices, but it will demonstrate a government’s firm commitment to put an end to a deplorable practice which has existed for far too long. Ratifying the Convention will also put a spotlight on domestic laws and their compatibility with the treaty obligations. The US Senate just last week amended its National Defense Authoritisation Act, or NDAA, to ban US officials from using torture techniques including mock executions, sexual humiliation, hooding prisoners and waterboarding. The amendment to the NDAA is largely attributed to distressing reports which revealed torture practices by the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA – a laudable move in the effort to wipe out state-sanctioned torture...
What remains crucial is Malaysia’s commitment to eradicate state-sanctioned, state-approved, state-supported torture. Malaysia remains one of about 30 countries in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention Against Torture. It is almost mind-boggling that any government would not want to assure its citizens and the global community that it would not ill-treat, degrade, cause harm or inflict torture its people. Make no mistake, torturers are international outlaws. A robust international legal framework has been built up with the Convention Against Torture and over 150 countries are state parties to this UN Convention. This is real and meaningful progress. We want the Malaysian government to protect people within its borders, be it citizens or non. The culture of impunity must end....
Amnesty International Malaysia is honoured to be partnering with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar, Lawyers For Liberty and Suaram in this ACT4CAT Campaign, to advocate for Malaysia to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol without delay. With the act of ratification, Malaysia would declare that it will no longer tolerate acts of torture and demonstrate solidarity with other members of the global community. AI Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to recognise that it has the primary responsibility to strengthen the protection of people deprived, and to establish and implement effective safeguards against torture as a route to change. These include key safeguards implemented at the time of arrest, in detention, within the judicial process, during questioning and after a detainee is released.

In line with this call, Amnesty International Malaysia is launching a petition calling on the Malaysian government to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture. This initiative will run from today and conclude in December. The petitions are available on amnesty.my as well as on our social media platforms. We will announce the results of this petition in December...." - Extract of speech of Shamini Darshni, Executive Director, AI Malaysia - 26/6/2015 >> Source: Malaysian Bar Website

Friday, June 12, 2015


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - June 12, 2015

WE, the over 300 participants in the First Asian Congress on the Death Penalty, taking place in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), on June 11th and 12th, 2015, co-organized by the Association Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), in partnership with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and the Bar Council Malaysia;
ADOPT the following Declaration;

- that every human being has the inherent right to life. This right must be protected by law;


- that over the last decades, five countries in the Asia region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines, Cambodia and Timor Leste;

- that Mongolia committed to the abolition of the death penalty by ratifying the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations (ICCPR);

- that some countries are abolitionist in practice (Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, South-Korea, Thailand);

- that the relationships between civil society, National human rights institutions, bar councils, academics, jurists, journalists, and prominent figures for the abolition of the death penalty are being strengthened;

- Asia remains the continent with the highest number of executions in the world.

- Since the beginning of 2015, some countries have resumed executions after the death penalty was suspended, such as Pakistan (over than 155 executions), Singapore and Indonesia (14 executions), while others plan to reintroduce the death penalty such as Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea;

- The death penalty is still applied for non-most serious crimes with reference to ICCPR definition and international standards;

Asian Retentionist states:

- To work toward the abolition of the death penalty to comply with the resolutions for a moratorium on executions, pending the abolition of the death penalty, passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations since 2007;

- To publish transparent, regular and reliable information on their implementation of the death penalty;

- To reform the justice criminal systems to ensure fair trials and stop the use of mandatory death penalty: “the automatic and mandatory imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life, in violation of Article 6, paragraph 1 of the ICCPR”, and is fundamentally incompatible with the right to fair trial and due process guaranteed in Article 14;

- To reduce by law the list of crimes punishable by death, including those related to the drug trafficking and the fight against terrorism in accordance with the “most serious crimes” provision of the ICCPR;

Intergovernmental regional organizations and international organizations:

- To continue and intensify their cooperation with States toward abolition;

- To collaborate with Asian and international civil society to promote the universal abolition of the death penalty;

Asian Abolitionist states:

- To commit, beyond words, in concrete and stronger actions in favour of the universal abolition of the death penalty, especially in their diplomatic relations with the retentionist states and with the inter-governmental regional organisations;

- To take the lead of the abolitionist movement among regional human rights bodies;

- To sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and to call on other Asian states to do the same;

- To provide assistance and support to national citizens on death row abroad;

People’s representatives (Parliamentarians, Congressmen, Deputies):

-  To gather in national, regional and international networks and bring the debate to abolish into the heart of retentionists Parliaments;

National Human Rights Institutions:

- To work jointly at a national and regional level to bring the issue of the abolition of the death penalty among their priorities and recommendations;

Bar Councils:

- To mobilize, raise awareness and train lawyers and jurists everywhere in Asia on the fight against the death penalty, including on defences in capital cases, for due process and fair trials

Judges in retentionist countries:

- To use their discretionary power to individualize sentences, to not sentence to death or to encourage juries to decide not to condemn to death;

Abolitionist civil society and academic actors:

-  To NGOs, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders in Asia-Pacific to join the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) to promote human rights and the abolition of the death penalty;

- To act jointly with, and eventually join, the World Coalition against the Death Penalty and strengthen interactions;

- To undertake educational activities in favour of abolition with the public, including policy makers,  students; and to celebrate every year the annual World Day against the Death Penalty on October 10th and the Cities for Life on November 30th;

- To actively continue in our work towards abolition of the death penalty including supporting and attending the upcoming World Congress against the death penalty in Oslo in June 2016.

Kuala Lumpur
June 12, 2015

* Participants came from about 22 Asia-Pacific Countries, and there were many others from Europe and America.

Mistakes “inevitable” in justice system, says panel at conference on death penalty

Mistakes “inevitable” in justice system, says panel at conference on death penalty

The inevitability of error
By Kirsten Han
Incompetent investigations, lack of well-trained interpreters or legal counsel are all elements of unfair trials that lead to the miscarriage of justice, a panel at the Asian Congress on the Death Penalty said in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Given this fact, it is very unsafe to carry out punishments as irreversible as capital punishment.
“Criminal justice is fragile,” said Saul Lehrfreund of The Death Penalty Project. “All it takes is one dishonest police officer, one incompetent lawyer, one over-zealous prosecutor or a mistaken witness, and the system simply fails.”
Lawyers from Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia highlighted flaws in capital punishment cases, such as the neglect of due process in high profile cases, or the lack of access to consular access in the case of foreign nationals arrested for capital crimes.
Abdul Rashid Ismail, the past president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) in Malaysia, highlighted the presumption clauses in Malaysia’s laws related to drug offences – similar to the presumptions within Singapore’s own Misuse of Drugs Act – describing them as “contrary to the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence.”
These presumption clauses are then compounded by factors such as the inability of poor accused persons to acquire competent legal representation, or to have access to trained interpreters who can adequately explain the charges and court proceedings before the defendant.
Puri Kencana Putri from the Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Indonesia, also presented the audience with a stream of troubling issues related to capital cases, such as it taking 15 minutes for inmates shot by the firing squad to die, or allegations of corruption that might subvert the course of justice. For example, in the case of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, there were allegations that judges had asked for bribes.
Lehrfreund too named a number of wrongful convictions in the UK which had eroded public endorsement of capital punishment as people began to see the death penalty as an unsafe course of action. Introducing The Death Penalty Project’s report The inevitability of error: The administration of justice in death penalty cases, he cited the case of Iwao Hakamada, a Japanese death row inmate released in 2014 who had been exonerated after 47 years in solitary confinement awaiting execution.
“Retentionist states need to face up to the possibility of wrongful convictions and unfair trials,” he concluded.
Held on the 11 and 12 of June, the Asian Congress of Death Penalty brings together activists, lawyers, parliamentarians and academics to network and discuss pertinent issues related to the abolitionist movements around the world. Organisers say that the event has attracted about 300 participants from 30 countries.
Note: The writer is a founding member of We Believe in Second Chances, a Singapore-based campaign to abolish the death penalty. - The Online Citizen, 12/6/2012

Will Malaysia finally abolish the death penalty?

Thursday June 11, 2015
04:00 PM GMT+8
Thiru said the government has repeatedly promised a review of the death penalty in the past few years but there have been no developments since 2009. — Picture by Saw Siow FengThiru said the government has repeatedly promised a review of the death penalty in the past few years but there have been no developments since 2009. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — With mixed signals from ministers, several non-governmental organisations called on the federal government today to state clearly its stand on the mandatory death sentence in practice currently.

Representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Malaysian Bar and French group The Organisation Together Against Death Penalty urged Putrajaya to abolish the practice in favour of more humane sentences.

“The views on this and human rights by the Cabinet vary. Some are committed but some have not made a stand at all,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam told reporters at the Asian Regional Congress on Death Penalty here.

“We must get the top leadership including the PM to be committed to this. There is intention but there is no follow up,” he added.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low had voiced his support for the abolishment of the death sentence in drug-related offences earlier today at the same event.

Low said the practice was “unfair” as more often than not, it was the drug mules who were caught and hanged instead of the syndicate leaders.

President of the Malaysian Bar Steven Thiru said the government has repeatedly promised a review of the death penalty in the past few years but there have been no developments since 2009.

The groups also urged the government to make public current data on the death penalty.

“We are quoting data that goes back to November 2013. We can't say… that abolishing death penalty would help deter drug cases because we have no exact data on that.

“That is the sorry state of affairs here. Data should be made public so that we know what is the breakdown,” Steven said.

Lawyer Julian McMahon commended Malaysia’s civil society for pushing for reform on capital punishment but said political willpower was needed to change the laws in the region.

“What is needed now is leadership at political level and civil society to lead the region in this matter,” said McMahon who represented two men who were part of the Bali nine recently executed for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

Malaysia is among 22 countries that executed inmates on death row last year.

In its Death Sentences and Executions Report 2014 by Amnesty International in April, the human rights watchdog noted that at least 38 people in the country were sentenced to death and two executed last year.

It added that 70 per cent of the convictions were for drug-related offences.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/will-putrajaya-commit-to-end-mandatory-death-penalty-groups-ask-amid-cross#sthash.bqtWl5qM.dpuf

* The Amnesty Report alleging 2 were executed in Malaysia last year may be wrong - Amnesty has not managed to provide sources or details concerning the said allegations. We may have to wait for an official answer by the Malaysian government whether or not there was any execution last year...

Friday June 12, 2015 MYT 7:25:42 AM

Review death sentence for drug offences, says Low

KUALA LUMPUR: Mandatory death sentences should be reviewed for drug offences, said Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan.

He told the First Regional Congress on the Death Penalty here that he supported the view of former de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in 2010 that it should be abolished.

“It would be difficult for the Government to appeal for a reprieve on behalf of Malaysians caught abroad as drug mules,” said the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department yesterday.

Low added that the rising number of convictions raised the question of whether the death sentence was an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.

However, the Malaysian Bar and Suhakam were not convinced that his view signalled that the Government was finally ready to abolish the death penalty in Malaysia.

Bar president Steven Thiru and Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said at a press conference that Low was expressing his personal view, as acknowledged by Low himself in his keynote address.

They said this when asked if they were confident that there would be any change as Low is not the first minister to give his personal support for abolition or a moratorium on the death sentence, pending its repeal.

Quoting previous statements from the ex-minister and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Steven said Low’s speech was more a repeat of a promise that had not been kept.

“If it is going to be baby steps – convert mandatory death sentences for drug mules to discretionary death sentences in the hands of a judge – then so be it and move on from there.

“But we’re neither here nor there, as though we’re back to the pre-2009 position,” he said.

The Government told the United Nations during its Universal Periodic Review in 2009 that it was considering returning discretionary powers for imposing the death penalty to the courts.

Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he took a positive reading from Low’s speech.

“Looking at the whole region, one of the things he talked about was leadership. As an outsider, what I perceived was the opportunity for leadership in the region and the reality of momentum,” said McMahon, who was counsel for the two Australians recently executed in Indonesia for drug offences. - The Star, 12/6/2015

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Removing the mandatory death penalty as a first step towards full abolition

Removing the mandatory death penalty as a first step towards full abolition

Mandatory Death Penalty
By Kirsten Han

A workshop session at the first Asian Congress of Death Penalty in Kuala Lumpur agreed on Thursday that the mandatory death penalty could be the low-hanging fruit for the abolitionist movement, and that its removal would be a step towards getting rid of capital punishment.

Professor Chan Wing Cheong, associate professor at the School of Law at the National University of Singapore, said the way the Misuse of Drugs Act and the mandatory death penalty were applied raised many points of concern.

Presumption clauses, for example, make it very difficult for an individual to prove his or her innocence.

“The prosecution can charge a person for trafficking, but they don’t have to prove trafficking. They only have to prove possession,” he said.

The amendments to the death penalty are also very narrow, allowing judges discretion in very specific cases.

Prof Chan Wing Cheong
Prof Chan Wing Cheong
“Even though Singapore has moved slightly in terms of the mandatory sentencing regime, it’s very limited, and there will always be cases that fall beyond the line,” he said, adding that it would be much better to give full discretion to judges.

“Every restriction is a step towards abolition,” said Parvais Jabbar of the Death Penalty Project, which seeks to limit the scope of the death penalty through litigation.

Dr Azmi Sharom, a law professor from the University of Malaya, observed that the mandatory death penalty was not as much of a “political hot potato”, as the Death Penalty Project’s research had found that most Malaysians were not in favour of mandatory capital punishment. It would therefore be easier to first persuade governments to remove the mandatory aspect, before striving to remove capital punishment altogether.

“There is no one step that will work; you’ll have to struggle on many fronts,” said Australian lawyer Julian McMahon, who had represented Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who had been executed by firing squad in Indonesia to much controversy.

McMahon urged academics, lawyers and activists to work together to tackle the issue from different angles, and to reach out to the media to educate the public on the death penalty and drug policy, so as to debunk claims about deterrence and the necessity of executions.

Held on the 11 and 12 of June, the Asian Congress of Death Penalty brings together activists, lawyers, parliamentarians and academics to network and discuss pertinent issues related to the abolitionist movements around the world. Organisers say that the event has attracted about 300 participants from 30 countries.
Note: The writer is a founding member of We Believe in Second Chances, a Singapore-based campaign to abolish the death penalty. - The Online Citizen, 11/6/2015

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Ex-CJ: Death in custody caused by cops’ disregard for human rights (Malay Mail)

Ex-CJ: Death in custody caused by cops’ disregard for human rights

By Zurairi AR
Saturday May 30, 2015
03:33 PM GMT+8
May 30, 2015
05:09 PM GMT+8
Ex-chief justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah says death in custody happens where there is little focus on respecting the rule of law or the sanctity of human life. ― File picEx-chief justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah says death in custody happens where there is little focus on respecting the rule of law or the sanctity of human life. ― File pic KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — Deaths in custody were only possible because the police has turned a blind eye towards police violence, with disregard over human rights and weak self-accountability, former chief justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah said today.

Dzaiddin, who had led the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Police Reform, said that this police culture has been instilled even starting at their training stage, where there is little focus on respecting the rule of law or the sanctity of human life.

“The current attitude within PDRM towards the rule of law is one of indifference, with a patent disregard for basic human rights,” Dzaiddin said today, using the Malay acronym for the Royal Malaysian Police.

“Whilst the current Malaysian Police Training Camp requisites a year-long course before graduation to constable, there is a distinct lack of emphasis upon respect for the rule of law or the sanctity of human life,” he said in his keynote address at a forum on police accountability.

Dzaiddin suggested that a reform of the police training system would allow “sharper focus” on the issue of police brutality, to train police on how to react to stressful situations without resorting to lethal force.

The ex-judge also criticised the so-called “blue wall of silence”, a term used to describe the barricade of protection police officers offer each other whenever they are under investigation, in order to protect each other.

“It is near impossible to have impartiality or transparency when looking to discipline one of your own, and the more controversial the topic the more opaque any investigation is likely to become,” said Dzaiddin.

Dzaiddin had been a key voice in the call to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), an independent oversight body for the police.

The Malaysian Bar, civil society groups and politicians from both sides of the divide have been calling for the IPCMC’s implementation since 2006 but to no avail.

There have been 242 cases of death in police custody between 2000 and 2014, with at least 13 cases alone last year, as reported by global watchdog Amnesty International.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/ex-cj-death-in-custody-caused-by-cops-disregard-for-human-rights#sthash.MGGF9vTt.dpuf