Abolish the death penalty in Malaysia — Azrul Mohd Khalib

FEBRUARY 24 — It has been reported a moment ago, that the appeal by brothers Rames and Suthar Batumalai, 44 and 39 respectively, for a stay of execution pending their application for a royal pardon, has been granted.

They have been granted a temporary reprieve.

Convicted in April 2010 and sentenced to death for a murder committed in 2006, their clemency application was submitted to the Negri Sembilan Pardons Board yesterday.

It was just this past Wednesday, that the family of Rames, 44, and Suthar, 39, were informed that they should visit the brothers for the last time.

It was likely that their execution was scheduled for today.

It is a known practice for executions to be carried out in the wee hours of Friday mornings, following last family visitations.

Their fate now lies in the hands of the Yang di-Pertuan Negri Sembilan.

The death penalty really has no place in the 21st century. Capital punishment, a government sanctioned practice whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime, is based on an archaic concept of “an eye for an eye”.

The law of retaliation, where the operating principle is that a person who has injured another person is to be penalised to a similar degree.

Last March, three men convicted of murder were hung till death in executions described as “secretive” and “last-minute”.

Like what happened to the brothers, the families were only given two days’ notice and advised to make last visits and necessary funeral arrangements.

The men themselves were only told that they would be executed the day before.

Such practices in Malaysia where scheduled hangings are not made public before, or even after they are carried out, are not in keeping with international standards regarding the application of the death penalty.

I would argue that it would be unnecessarily cruel and harsh emotional torture and punishment to inflict, especially upon the families of those living under the shadow of the death sentence.

According to the Malaysian Prisons Department, more than 1,000 convicted inmates are currently on death row. The executions in last March marked the first death sentences carried out since 2013.

Rames and Suthar Batumalai’s would have been the first for this year.

There is an ongoing discussion by both government and civil society on abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

Last year, Malaysia’s Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, spoke of the need to get rid of the mandatory death penalty which is imposed on offences related to drug trafficking, treason and firearms related crimes.

He described it as judges being denied to exercise their discretion in the sentencing of criminals upon their conviction.

Apandi felt that it was necessary to give an option for the judge to either send him to prison or to the gallows.

It is very possible that mandatory capital punishment for drug offenses may soon be a thing of the past. The government has even spoken of proposed amendments to the Penal Code to abolish the death sentence.

We should support the Attorney General and the Government in this effort. It is necessary for the Malaysian government to also consider imposing an immediate moratorium on all executions, until this discussion has been concluded.

Abolishing capital punishment will take immense moral courage and political will to pull off.

It is a potentially unpopular move and one which will have many detractors who will insist on the death penalty to be maintained believing that it actually deters heinous crimes.

However, the reverse is true.

It has been proven that the punishment has had very little preventive or deterrent value towards the crimes which it is supposed to prevent.

The death penalty is a simplistic and dangerous response to societal problems which emerge from issues such as poverty and social inequality.

The biblical belief that “an eye for an eye” approach is the way to solve or provide remedy for the victims actually promotes and extends the suffering of those affected to the family and loved ones of those condemned to be on death row.

Just as slavery which is allowed in quite a few religions and has existed throughout Malaysian culture, heritage and history and has been dropped from contemporary practice, the death penalty must also cease to exist in our legal system.

More than two-thirds of countries around the world have abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it.

However, Malaysia is among 18 countries where the death penalty is still being carried out and it is legally mandatory upon conviction for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, the possession of illegal firearms, and waging war against the King.

But does the death penalty actually deter the occurrence of heinous and violent crimes such as murder?

It does not.

There is no evidence from any existing study that demonstrates that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long prison sentences.

However, it has been found that countries which impose the death penalty do not, in fact, have lower crime or murder rates than countries without capital punishment. The death penalty does not deter people from committing the related crime.

It has been shown through studies that increasing the severity of a punishment does not in fact add to deterrence.

What has instead been demonstrated is that increasing severity results in decreasing weight and value of the deterrence in question.

Capital punishment is also dependent on the perfect application of laws and the delivery of justice.

But as we know, all judicial systems make mistakes which is the reason that there is an appeal process.

As long as the death penalty exists, it is possible for innocent people to be executed.

No one has been able to be raised from the dead after an execution has been carried out. There is no appeal process after death.

Let’s end the death penalty in Malaysia.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.