Suhakam: Life a constitutional right, absolutely no to death penalty

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail highlighted the possibility of an innocent person receiving a death sentence due to inadequate defences, misapplications of forensic science among other reasons. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail highlighted the possibility of an innocent person receiving a death sentence due to inadequate defences, misapplications of forensic science among other reasons. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is adamant that the abolition of the death penalty must be absolute, stressing that the Federal Constitution recognises all life as sacred.

Its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said the government’s move give the courts the discretion to decide capital punishment was a “good first step”, but added that such powers is still a barrier to upholding human dignity and the right to life.

“Malaysia is a country that respects the sanctity of life and the right to life is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution,” Razali said in a statement today.

“Suhakam therefore urges the Government to take concurrent steps towards total abolition of the death penalty and move towards ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT),” he added.

The Pakatan Harapan government announced plans to end the death penalty last year but subsequently said it would review its total abolition.

To uphold international human rights standards, Razali called for more engagement between the government and civil society to address opposition to the abolishment of the death penalty and other punishments deemed cruel.

The Suhakam chief also said there is no credible evidence that capital punishment beats a jail sentence in preventing crime.

Razali also highlighted the possibility of an innocent person receiving a death sentence due to inadequate defences, misapplications of forensic science among other reasons.

He cited the Innocence Project in the United States, which had reportedly exonerated 364 death row inmates through DNA evidence in the past 25 years.

“How many people in Malaysia would be freed from death row if something similar were applied here?” he asked.

On March 13, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said the mandatory death penalty for 11 criminal offences were to be repealed and substituted with the death penalty imposed at the discretion of the court.

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