By GM THOMAS
VATICAN CITY (30 NOVEMBER 2018): Malaysia has 1,281 death convicts currently on death row representing about 0.00004 per cent of the 30 million or so of the country’s population.
“The total prisoners in our prisons were 65,222 as at 30th October 2018 that includes the 1,281 death convicts,” said De Facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong.
According to him, up until 2017, a total of 473 convicts had been executed by hanging in Malaysia, a statistic of which no civil society should be proud of.
He went on saying that death penalty as deterrent for crimes does not work as many known researches have shown.
“In Malaysian’s context, crimes for murder and drug trafficking have not decreased since independence,” he said.
“When I was first informed of the total numbers of prisoners in early October this year, the figures stood at 59,997 prisoners with 1,279 on death row. In less than 3 weeks, an increase of 5,225 prisoners with 2 prisoners sentenced to death,” added Liew.
“Of the 65,222 prisoners, 36,313 of them are in the prisoners for drug related offences. This works out to be about 55 per cent,” he said.
“Most of them are found to be drug abusers rather than drug users, and this calls for treatments rather than imprisonments,” said Liew.
“The menace of drugs is also reflected in the 1,281 death row inmates as 927 of them were sentenced for drug trafficking, a capital offence under our Dangerous Drug Act 1952,” he explained.
This means 354 on the death convicts are in prisons are either for murder, wrongful abduction for ransom/kidnapping, firearms, treason and waging war against the King.
“Notwithstanding the numerically small number of death convicts in our prisons as against the country’s population, taking away an innocent life is an affront to the right of life, contrary to the meaning of humanity, mercy and sanctity of life. More so when there’re instances where trials in the court of law have been compromised that led to the miscarriage of justice,” Liew added.
“In Malaysia, there are known cases which led to the conviction of several accused for capital offences because of false evidence given by prosecution witnesses. However, their convictions were overturned on appeal and the false witnesses were charged for perjury and sentenced to imprisonment upon conviction.”
“These are just the lucky few, and we can count with our five fingers, who escaped the gallows. Seriously speaking, we do not have any known cases in Malaysia where those condemned persons, already executed, are found to be innocent later. Going by the statistics of wrongful conviction based on wrongful evidence, there’s a good possibility that a good percentage of the 473 executed men and women could be innocent,” said Liew.
“With that the ancient maxim by Blackstone, Hale and Forsteque that ‘one would rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally’, will render that innocent person a scapegoat for the real culprit who is freed at large and left unpunished for the crime he or she has committed,” he added.
Liew, who was one of the main speakers at the Italian Parliamentary session, said this in his speech during the 11th International Congress of Justice Ministers at the Italian Parliament here, Wednesday.
He was heading the Malaysian delegation for the conference themed ‘A World without the Death Penalty’ from Nov 26 to Dec 1.
The conference, organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio with the support of the Republic of the Italian Government intends to offer a platform of dialogue to all countries that have embarked on the path for the moratorium or for the abolition of the death penalty.
Some 22 Ministers of Justice and their respective Attorney Generals and law officers from various countries in the world attended the XI International Congress Of Justice Ministers here at Rome.
According to him, capital punishment in the form of hanging to death has been meted out by the Malaysian courts for those who have committed and convicted for capital offences since independence.
“There are 32 capital offences in eight of our laws and the more known ones are murder found under our Penal Code and drug trafficking under our Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.”
Liew explained the due process of the law would begin in the High Court and a convicted person is entitled as of right to appeal to the Court of Appeal and if unsuccessful would have a final recourse at the Federal Court.
The affirmation by the Malaysian highest court concludes the due process of the law but execution cannot be carried out unless and until the Ruler of each respective States or the King signs the execution order, he said.
Therefore, Liew said the whole process may take up 10 to 15 years before the condemned person are sent to the gallows.
“While waiting, the condemned person is kept in solitary confinement,” he said, stating an example of a known case where a convicted man was locked up for 25 years whereby the State did not have the opportunity to hang him as he died in prison of natural death.
MURDER RATE DROPPED AFTER ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
Meanwhile, Dr George F. Kain of Western Connecticut State University in his speech said that vengeance and retribution have replaced any rational understanding of deterrence and has clouded the people’s vision.
“We have been led to believe that capital punishment is likely to deter more than any other punishments because supposedly, people fear death more than anything else,” he said.
According to him, there is no proof of death penalty deterring murders, and there are many other states in the United States that are strongly considering abolishing the death penalty.
In the United States, murder rates have dropped in states after the death penalty was abolished and none of them have seen an increase in murder rates.
“Even if drug dealers are subjected to capital punishment, that will not stop drug trafficking. A person, who sees that they can become wealthy, is not going to be deterred from committing such crimes, and others will step up to continue to sell drugs, even if others are caught.”
“Executing drug dealers will not stop drug dealing. Neither will executing terrorists stop the problem of terrorism. The severity of any punishment will not stop terrorists, because we have learned that if terrorists die as a result of their missions, in their minds, they have succeeded— it is a badge of honour to carry out a death mission and to be killed in the process.”
“How then, can the use of the death penalty impact their decision making? It will not,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Liew during the event also had a meeting with President of the Lower House of Italian Parliament, Roberto Fico, Italy Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi as well as Italy Minister of Justice Alfonso Bonafede.
MALAYSIA VOTED FOR ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN UN ASSEMBLY
During the meeting, Fico voiced his support towards all countries’ representatives who were present in undertaking the process of abolishment of death penalty.
Liew also informed Fico about the Malaysian government’s efforts and commitment in abolishing the death penalty and there would be a moratorium on executions for inmates currently on death row.
Milanesi also stressed out the importance of abolishing death penalty as it has failed to prove its ability in deterring crimes and prone to human mistakes.
He also mentioned about the latest Resolution for a moratorium which was approved by the General Assembly Third Committee meeting on Nov 13 this year which shows a number of votes in favour never recorded before.
Bonafede mentioned about the risk of imposing death sentence as it will lead to a point of no return since it involves human’s life.
He also stressed on the importance of the citizens’ welfare in dealing with crime issues.
LIGHTING UP THE COLOSSEUM AT ROME
Liew also had an audience with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, H.E Roberto Fico and the President of the Senate of the Republic Of Italy H.E Maria Elisabetta Alberti Caselatti at the Italian Parliament.
Liew has been invited to launch the World International Day Of Cities Against the Death Penalty in Rome and he is scheduled to light up the Colosseum at 6pm (local time) on Friday (Nov 30) to honour Malaysia on the abolition of death penalty.