World Day Against the Death Penalty 2015 Campaign
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
In conjunction with the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October 2015, Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to halt the use of the death penalty as it is an ineffective and flawed tool to combat crime including for drug offences.
“Malaysia remains among just 11 countries which has executed or sentenced people to death for drug-related crimes over the past two years while dozens of states maintain the death penalty for drug offences in their law books,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni said.
Amnesty International, which produces the yearly Death Sentences and Executions Report to measure the use of the death penalty worldwide, has recorded executions and death sentencing in China, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.
In support of the World Day Against the Death Penalty which focuses on the use of the death penalty in drug offences this year, the global movement of Amnesty International is championing the case of Shahrul Izani Suparman, who was sentenced to death in 2009, six years after he was incarcerated in Sungai Buloh Prison at age 19.
“Amnesty International’s strength lies in its seven million members, supporters and activists worldwide to express solidarity and intervene when an injustice is committed. The death penalty is the ultimate injustice as it allows the state to decide whether a person lives or dies, and this violates a person’s right to life as provided for, under international law. So is the situation for Shahrul Izani,” Shamini said.
“Shahrul Izani was just 19 when he was sentenced to death for a crime that doesnot merit the death penalty. Further, the circumstances around his case are still not fully answered and we are joining him in the fight for his life,” Shamini said.
“We stand in solidarity with Shahrul Izani and his family, and appeal to those in power to reconsider the death penalty for a man, once a boy who secured a spot at a local college to study information technology.”
Drug trafficking in Malaysia is punishable by the mandatory death penalty under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. Persons found in possession of certain amounts of illegal substances are automatically presumed to be trafficking drugs.
Amnesty International rejects the use of the death penalty in all circumstances although under international law, the death penalty may be imposed for “most serious offences”, interpreted to mean intentional killing.
Before being confined to a solitary cell like other death row prisoners, Shahrul Izani underwent rehabilitation programmes including attending religious classes, and later used the knowledge he gained to teach and guide fellow inmates.
“He is proof that people are able to change, but the finality of the death penalty is irreversible. We are now urging the public to support Shahrul Izani’s fight for his life by taking part in our campaign,” Shamini said.
Amnesty International Malaysia has launched an online petition at www.amnesty.my/shahrul for the public to urge the Selangor Clemency Board to commute Shahrul Izani’s death sentence to life imprisonment as he faces the risk of execution at any time.
“We are also asking the public to tweet solidarity messages to him using the hashtag, #ShahrulIzani, and submit a five to 10 second video message addressing either Shahrul Izani, his family or the Selangor Clemency Board to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“He is in solitary confinement but we want him to know that he is not alone,” Shamini said. Amnesty International Malaysia is also calling on the Malaysian government to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drugs offences as a first step towards total abolition.
“Almost three quarters of people on death row in Malaysian prisons are awaiting mandatory executions for drug offences. But decades of research show that the death penalty does not stop drug addiction, least of all the drug trade. It is not a crime prevention tool.”
At the first Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty held in Kuala Lumpur in June, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan had acknowledged that “policies are not working; drug mules are being caught when kingpins go free”. He had added that the Malaysian government was considering a reduction of the maximum sentence from death penalty to life in prison.
“It is encouraging to note that Malaysia is reconsidering the mandatory death penalty for drug offences after decades of death penalty practice. The government is strongly urged to put in place a moratorium on the use of capital punishment while studies are ongoing. It is an opportune time for Malaysia to make a positive move on human rights at the moment,” Shamini said.
Amnesty International received reports indicating that death sentences continued to be imposed for drug-related offences in 2015 in China, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.
Executions are known to have been carried out in China (believed to be the world’s biggest user of the death penalty), Iran (241, from official and unofficial sources, as at 28 April 2015), Indonesia (14 as at 26 August 2015) and Saudi Arabia (38 as at 15 May 2015). Figures for Malaysia are not yet available.
“In Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, suspects arrested for drug possession are presumed guilty as the burden of proof lies with them, and this violates the presumption of innocence and fair trial rights,” Shamini said, adding that drug laws in these countries needed a revamp to ensure the innocent are not punished.
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.
For more information, please contact:
Amnesty International MalaysiaD-2-33A,
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Section 8 46050 Petaling Jaya,
T: +603 7955 2680
F: +603 7955 2682
W : amnesty.my