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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Two hanged in Malaysia: "Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions"

Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions

In the wee hours of this morning, May 24, 2017, two men had been executed at Sungai Buloh Prison - a Chinese Malaysian and Yong Kar Mun, 48 who was sentenced to death in 2009 for armed robbery.

The double execution this morning comes as a grave shock to Members of Parliament, the Malaysian Bar, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and other human rights bodies, but most importantly, the unconsolable grief of the two families who had not been notified on the exact date and time of the secretive nature of the executions of these two men.

Time and time again, lawmakers have been questioning the government in the Malaysian Parliament on the status of the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia and stressing on an immediate moratorium on the death penalty pending possible amendments to laws that warrant the death sentence as a method of punishment and revenge.

On Sept 5, 2016 a Special Task force had been formed on the abolition of the death penalty attended by MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran, Suhakam, Amnesty International, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, academicians, the Malaysian Bar Council, Home Ministry and also the National Security Council.

On March 1 this year, the cabinet was presented with the findings of a research by Roger Hood and the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS) by the attorney-general himself whereby the cabinet had decided and agreed that provisional amendments to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA) by including that discretionary powers be given to courts to mete out the punishment befitting the crime.

In the last Parliament sitting in April, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said cemented the fact that a memorandum from the cabinet together with the proposed amendments to the DDA 1952 will be brought again to the cabinet for further consideration. Azalina also stressed that the mandatory death penalty has proven that it is NOT a deterrent to crime.

The government has committed countless times over the years, to amend provisions in the law to grant discretionary powers to the courts on drug related offences that carry the mandatory death penalty and yet appears apprehensive in committing to see it through.

Why then the chest thump on transforming Malaysia into a nation that upholds and respects human rights when it is not serious on imposing a moratorium on all death row cases, across the board until discussions, meetings and even amendments are made?

While the attorney-general prepares the documents on the amendments of the law on the mandatory death penalty, executions are still going on in Malaysian prisons and in this year alone, Malaysia executed four people in five months.

‘Persistent lack of transparency’


The Najib Abdul Razak administration has violated international human rights standards and laws in its persistent lack of transparency in carrying out executions.

It appears that the Malaysian government is keener on executing prisoners than making just, reformist, progressive, positive changes in the law to uphold, promote, protect and defend human rights.

Until and unless Prime Minister Najib pull the brakes and halt ALL executions and impose a moratorium until law reforms have been made to safeguard the sanctity and the spirit of the right to life and human rights in Malaysia, Vision TN50 will be merely a hollow meaningless effort to transform Malaysia into a developed, progressive nation.

I urge the attorney-general, Prime Minister Najib and the PM’s Department to present the findings on the research to abolish the death penalty in the next cabinet meeting and in the same vein to propose and to impose a moratorium on ALL death row prisoners until the matter is brought to Parliament, debated and passed.

It is highly immoral, inhumane and a gross misconduct on the part of the Najib administration under the Barisan Nasional government to continue with executions on prisoners on death row when the attorney-general has not presented recommendations to the cabinet to amend laws on the mandatory death penalty.

Source: Malaysia Kini, K. Patto, May 24, 2017. The author is Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, publicity secretary of Wanita DAP, member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Democratic Action Party.

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