Malaysia: Disgraceful use of death penalty continues
6 APRIL 2016
Malaysia remained unwavering in its use of capital punishment in 2015, contributing to the highest number of executions recorded by Amnesty International in 26 years.
In its Death Sentences and Executions 2015 report released today, Amnesty International recorded an alarming rise in the number of executions in 2015 globally which saw more people put to death since 1989.
“Malaysia’s persistent reliance on an archaic and unproven method of punishment is a contributing factor to this grim landscape. Last year, Malaysia was one of just 25 countries that executed people, and was one of 61 countries that meted out the death sentence. The continuous use of the death penalty despite not deterring crime is another mark on Malaysia’s chequered human rights record,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni said.
In 2015, Amnesty International recorded 1,634 executions in 25 countries while 1989 saw 1,956 executions globally in 34 countries.
Despite decades of research on the ineffectiveness of the death penalty, including a Malaysia-specific research on the mandatory death penalty, there is a lack of political will to implement actual reforms.
“We urge the government to abolish the archaic method of capital punishment and in the interim, to put in place an immediate moratorium on executions and death sentences,” Shamini said.
The authorities rarely make a public announcement prior and after executions are carried out. In October 2015, the Prison Department indicated that between 1998 and 2015, there had been 33 executions while Amnesty International recorded only 22 executions for the same period.
“This contrast in figures only serves to underline the fact that secretive executions have been a pernicious practice for far too long. The Malaysian government and its relevant agencies must heed calls for greater transparency and accountability when it comes its use of the death penalty,” she said.
The Death Sentences and Executions 2015 report records that last year, Malaysia carried out at least one execution for murder on 20 November 2015.
“These sort of murky details on the use of death penalty raises doubts as to the exact numbers of those on death row and those who have been executed. This is precisely one of many reasons the death penalty has to be given death,” Shamini said.
The Death Sentences and Executions 2015 records information on the use of the death penalty through a variety of sources: official figures, information from individuals sentenced to death and their families, other civil society organisations and media reports.
In the wee hours of 25 March 2016, Malaysia executed three men on death row. Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, 35, Ramesh Jayakumar, 34, and his brother Sasivarnam Jayakumar, 37, met their demise at the noose barely 24 hours after being informed that their clemency application had failed and that they were scheduled to hang.
“Despite the best efforts of anti-death penalty advocates both nationally and abroad including Amnesty International, the three still lost their lives. Living on death row is itself inhumane and deprives one of the basic right to life. Further, the recent triple execution cheapens suggestions by Attorney-General Apandi Ali and de facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri who both agreed that death penalty reforms were due,” Shamini said.
Like death row inmates, family members are given very short notices of their loved one’s hanging – sometimes just a day or two – before an execution.
Malaysia, along with Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam are four out of 10 ASEAN countries that still use the death penalty. Malaysia also remains five of 53 Commonwealth countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Singapore which still executes.
“It is an international embarrassment that Malaysia is one out of only 24 UN member states that still uses the death penalty.”
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organisation campaigns for the total abolition of capital punishment.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organisation with more than 7 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organisation investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilises the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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