Abolish mandatory death penalty for all offences
18 November 2015
Lawyers for Liberty welcomes de facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri’s reply in Parliament yesterday that the government is planning to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and reinstate the judges’ discretion in sentencing.
We are however concerned that the proposed amendments are unnecessarily limiting and should be extended to all death penalty offences including murder, kidnapping, firearms and waging war offences. Judges are in the best position to exercise their discretion to decide on the appropriate sentence for each individual case, depending on the peculiar facts and circumstances.
Judicial discretion in sentencing is an essential aspect of judicial power under our legal system. Judges are not automatons designed to sentence mechanically. To deprive the judiciary of such discretion and to force them to impose the mandatory death sentence is an unnecessary fetter on their discretion and interferes with their independence and justice.
Malaysia remains among an ever decreasing small minority of countries that still provide for the death penalty. A total of 137 states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice i.e. more than 70 per cent of the total number of states in the world.
In December 2014, a record number of countries, 117 of the UN’s 193 member states supported a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally.
Despite popular belief, there is no cogent empirical evidence to show the death penalty is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment and thus no good reason to maintain the death penalty. The Minister in announcing the proposed amendments accepted that the death penalty had not reduced crime rates.
The death penalty has no place in any civilised society that values human rights, justice and mercy. It is the ultimate human rights violation, a state-sanctioned murder, unique in its cruelty and finality. In the absence of a fair and just criminal justice system and access to competent legal representation, the death penalty disproportionately affects the poorer and lower classes, and risks the likelihood of wrongful convictions. Needless to say, death penalty is irreversible and cannot be remedied.
Lawyers for Liberty therefore calls on the government, in line with the global trend, to immediately impose a permanent moratorium on all death penalty punishment pending the amendments which should be extended to all death penalty offences, and take steps towards its abolishment.
Lawyers for Liberty
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