OCTOBER 10 — The World Day against the Death Penalty is commemorated on 10 October each year.
In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for persons convicted of murder, trafficking in narcotics of various amounts, and discharging a firearm in the commission of various crimes (even where no one is hurt).
The Malaysian Bar has been, and remains, in the frontline of the battle to uphold and preserve the rule of law, fundamental constitutional rights, the administration of justice, and law and order. In this regard, we have consistently called for the abolition of the death penalty. The Malaysian Bar at its Annual or Extraordinary General Meetings in 1985, 2006, 2012 and 2015 passed resolutions condemning the death penalty and/or calling for its abolition.
The campaign to abolish the death penalty is not meant to confer licence to commit serious crimes with impunity. Persons convicted of serious crimes must receive proportionate punishment. But this does not mean that they therefore ought to die.
The Malaysian Bar has always taken the view that there is no empirical evidence or data that confirms that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes. There has been no significant reduction in the incidence of crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory. This is particularly true of drug-related offences.
In short, the death penalty does not work as a deterrent.
The Malaysian Bar’s primary opposition to the death penalty is because life is sacred, and every person has an inherent right to life. This is vouchsafed in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which eschews the arbitrary deprivation of life. The right to life is a fundamental right that must be absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of the crime committed by the accused person.
Recently, Minister Dato’ Sri Azalina Othman Said stated on 7 August 2017 that the Cabinet had approved the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences. However, there has been no announcement of any timeline, or any release of draft legislation to this effect. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government of Malaysia to introduce the amending legislation without further delay. Any delay will mean more people being sentenced to die.
The Malaysian Bar further calls upon the Government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, stop executions, and commute each death sentence to one of imprisonment.
*This statement is issued by George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar Council.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.