Friday, December 21, 2007

Parents visit death row girl (37 Malaysians convicted of or awaiting trial for drug-related offences in China)

Friday December 21, 2007 (Star)

Parents visit death row girl


GUANGZHOU: Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim, who is facing the death sentence for heroin trafficking here, received a surprise Hari Raya Haji gift yesterday.

Her parents, Mohamad Lazim Jusoh and Umi Slaia Ibrahim, visited her at the Shantou Detention Camp.

Parental pain: Mohamad Lazim and Umi Slaia looking at their daughter’s picture at their house near Pasir Puteh recently. They got to meet her yesterday. — Bernam
It was an emotional meeting for the family and a brief one due to prison regulations. They hugged each other and talked for 30 minutes.

Mohamad Lazim brought along his eldest daughter’s favourite dishes – beef sambal, fish crackers, fried mini popiah and biscuits.

Umi Azlim, 24, a Universiti Malaysia Sabah graduate in Biological Science, was detained at Shantou airport on Jan 29 after immigration officers found 2.98kg of heroin on her.

She was given the death sentence in May and is not allowed to appeal for two years.

Mohamad Lazim said his daughter was surprised to see both of them and had sought their forgiveness. He said prison authorities provided books for her to read.

Umi Azlim: Allowed to see her parents for 30 minutes
“I told her to control herself as it was pointless shedding tears over what has happened,” he said, adding that they did not discuss the drug smuggling case.

“We are not here for that reason nor to find a solution but to see her. We had not seen her for two years. We are sad but managed to see her on Aidiladha. This is a blessing after our prayers.

“Umi (Azlim) told us that a friend had shown her an Internet advertisement which offered a lot of money for sending goods,” he said.

“I’m relieved and happy that my daughter is in good health. She can already speak Chinese and teaches English to the others,” said Umi Slaia.

Mohamad Lazim said that on his return to Kelantan, he would discuss ways to engage a Chinese lawyer to file an appeal.

The former soldier, who is now a mechanic at Edaran Otomobil Nasional Bhd, and his wife are scheduled to return to Malaysia tomorrow.

Malaysian vice-consul Haniah Mohd Adenan, a local staff member of the consulate and officials from the Foreign Affairs Department accompanied the couple to the camp, located 470km from here.

PAS Supporters Club chairman Hu Pang Chaw, who acted as interpreter, was among those accompanying the couple from Kota Baru.

Hu said Malaysia did not have any representatives in Shantou so the Malaysian consulate here had arranged with the Chinese Foreign Affairs to meet them at Shantou Airport.

Umi Azlim is among 37 Malaysians convicted of or awaiting trial for drug-related offences in China.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

UN General Assembly passes resolution calling for "MORATORIUM ON THE DEATH PENALTY.."

18 December 2007
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly


76th & 77th Meetings (AM & PM)


Adopts 54 Resolutions, 12 Decisions Recommended by Third Committee

The General Assembly today adopted 54 resolutions and 12 decisions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), including a landmark text calling for a moratorium on executions to be established in all States that still maintain the death penalty, as well as a resolution strongly condemning rape against women and girls in all its forms, including in conflict situations.

The resolution calling for “a moratorium on the death penalty”, was passed by a vote of 104 in favour to 54 against, with 29 abstentions. (See annex VI.) It called on all States that still allowed capital punishment to “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed”. Those countries were also called on to provide the Secretary-General with information on their use of capital punishment and to respect international standards that safeguard the rights of condemned inmates.

Echoes of the intense two-day debate that preceded approval in the Committee of the resolution on a moratorium on executions reverberated in the Assembly hall, with a number of delegations arguing that the death penalty was not illegal under international human rights legislation and that it was the sovereign right of each and every State to determine its own judicial system. Two similar proposals had reached the Assembly in 1994 and 1999; in the first case, it was defeated by eight votes, while in the second, it was withdrawn at the last minute.

Among those delegations opposing the resolution, the representative of Barbados said the European Union and other main sponsors were trying to impose their will on other countries. “Capital punishment remains legal under international law and Barbados wishes to exercise its sovereign right to use it as deterrent to the most serious crimes,” he said just ahead of the vote.

Singapore’s representative said it was unfortunate that the resolution’s co-sponsors had handled the issue not as a debate, but as a lecture. There had never been any attempt to reach consensus. They had ignored the diversity of States and their judicial systems. In addition, they had resorted to pressure tactics and demarches. While the co-sponsors would celebrate their victory, it had come at the expense of acrimony in the Third Committee. Each State had a sovereign right to choose its own political, criminal and judicial systems, he said, stressing that Singapore would continue to follow its own course in the matter..... (go to for the rest of this document, the relevant annex showing the votes for this "moratorium resolution on the death penalty" is enclosed)


Vote on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty

The draft resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/62/439/Add.2) was adopted by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 54 against, with 29 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

Against: Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Chad, China, Comoros, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United States, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Abstain: Belarus, Bhutan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Niger, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Togo, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Zambia.

Absent: Guinea-Bissau, Peru, Senegal, Seychelles, Tunisia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

UN Assembly calls for moratorium on death penalty

UN Assembly calls for moratorium on death penalty

Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:39pm EST
By Daniel Bases

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, overcoming protests from a bloc of states that said it undermined their sovereignty.

The resolution, which calls for "a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," was passed by a 104 to 54 vote, with 29 abstentions.

"The resolution is not an interference, but we call on each member state of the United Nations to implement the resolution and also to open a debate on the death penalty," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said after the vote.

"The moratorium is an important opportunity for international debate," he told reporters. Italy, speaking on behalf of the EU, was a strong proponent of the resolution.

Two similar moves in the 1990s failed in the assembly. The resolution's text stops short of an outright demand for immediate abolition; it carries no legal force but backers say it has powerful moral authority.

Among nations who voted against were Egypt, Iran, Singapore, the United States and a bloc of Caribbean states.

Eighty-seven countries -- including the 27 European Union states, more than a dozen Latin American countries and eight African states -- jointly introduced the resolution, though opponents singled out the EU as the driving force.

The resolution picked up several extra votes in the General Assembly since it was passed by a U.N. human rights committee last month by a vote of 99-52 with 33 abstentions.

Barbados, one of the most vocal opponents of the measure, said sponsors were trying to impose their will on other countries and that it had been threatened with the withdrawal of aid over the issue.

"Capital punishment remains legal under international law and Barbados wishes to exercise its sovereign right to use it as a deterrent to the most serious crimes," Mohammed Degia, first secretary for Barbados, said just prior to the vote.

"Beyond all of this is the simple fact that the question of the death penalty is basically one of criminal justice as enforced and upheld within national legal systems," he said, noting that Barbados had not carried out an execution in decades but still retained the right to do so.

The United States voted against but kept a low profile throughout the resolution's progress to a vote.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban welcomed the vote.

"Today's vote represents a bold step by the international community," Montas quoted Ban as saying in a statement. "This is further evidence of a trend towards ultimately abolishing the death penalty."

According to rights group Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Opponents of the moratorium, however, said more than 100 countries retained capital punishment on their statutes, even if they did not all use it.

China, Iran, Iraq, the United States, Pakistan and Sudan account for about 90 percent of all executions worldwide, according to Amnesty.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Human rights march: 5 lawyers arrested ( & 3 Ors as well)

As of 4.00pm, they are apparently still being held at the Ibu Pejabat Kontijen Polis (the big building beside the old Pudu Jail - as to whether they will be charged for illegal assembly, attempted murder or detained further under the Internal Security Act for having links with some terrorist groups is still a question mark - nowadays as it was also the case before anything is possible.

Call on the Prime Minister and the government of Malaysia for their immediate release
N Surendran, Amer Hamzah, Latheefa Koya and the 5 others, and for them not to be charged for exercising their right to assemble peacefully..

(The Bar Council had earlier that week ,having succumbed to fears and threats, canceled the Human Rights Day March - and interestingly their Human Rights Chairman, Edmund Bon, was also got arrested much later for apparently preventing DBKL officers removing banners outside the Bar Building.....

The put pressure - the Bar Council called off the Human Rights walk

They put pressure - the Bar then moved the Human Rights festival from Central Market back into their own building

They put pressure again to take out banners in the Bar Building ...and when they resisted finally - their Human Rights Chairman gets arrested

The lesson:- The more you succumb to government threats and pressures, the more the government will push until at the end there is no more human rights and democratic space - it never ends until people overcome their fears and take a stand

After all it seems that our Malaysian government wants a docile citizenry, one who will loyally say "All is right - government is good - no other regime can rule Malaysia - Malaysia boleh...boleh UNITY)

Human rights march: 5 lawyers arrested

Sunday, 09 December 2007, 08:21am

Human rights march: 5 lawyers arrested©Malaysiakini
by Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Dec 9, 07 8:16am

The police have arrested eight people, including five lawyers, for proceeding with a march to mark International Human Rights Day from the Sogo department store to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur early this morning.

The arrests came after a failed attempt by the organisers of the march to negotiate with the police to allow them to finish their march at their intended spot.

The 100-odd crowd was already halfway to their destination when the police give the marchers a 10-minute warning to disperse.

The organisers, who believed that they could complete their march within the time limit, wanted to press on. According to an eyewitness, the police however cordoned off the area, moved in and made the arrests even before the stipulated deadline expired.

Those arrested included five lawyers - N Surendran, Latheefa Koya, R Sivarasa, Eric Paulsen and Amer Hamzah. Others were Anthony Andu, Norazah Othman and an unidentified activist.

They were arrested near the Jalan Tun Perak LRT station and were immediately taken to the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.

The eight were arrested under the Police Act for illegal assembly, said Dang Wangi's acting Superintendent Che Hamzah Che Ismail.

The remainder of the marchers dispersed following the arrests.

"Authorities seem to be upset by any visible signs of protest and I think this is a problem with the country," said Sivarasa, who is also a leader of PKR.

"They don't seem to be able to deal with peaceful dissent," he told AFP before he was arrested.

Organiser Latheefa said that Malaysians needed to continue to exercise their constitutional right to public assembly.

Willing to cooperate

Earlier today, at about 8am, the small group of about 100 gathered at the Sogo departmental store under the watchful eyes of the police. There were however no signs of the dreaded Federal Reserve Unit and their water cannon trucks.

The marchers had carried banners that read "Lawyers for the freedom of assembly" and "Government that abuses human rights is terrorist."

Eyewitnesses said that one of the persons arrested was dragged into the waiting police truck and the arrests were done despite the marchers’ willingness to cooperate with the police.

This small group of marchers have undertaken this march after the Bar Council had dropped its annual march in conjunction with the International Human Rights Day celebration - which falls on Dec 10 - due to pressure to obtain a police permit.

Yesterday the police had warned the public not to participate in the march given that no permit had been issued for the gathering.

"As no permit has been issued for the gathering, those who take part in it can be charged under Section 27(5) of the Police Act 1967 for participating in an illegal assembly," warned Che Hamzah in a Bernama report.

Upon the decision of the Bar Council to call off the march, at least 15 lawyers decided to proceed with the walk to make a statement that citizens have a right to assemble peacefully and without prior requirement of a police permit.

Venue changed

Two days ago, Surendran had said that the march was purely initiated by a group of concerned lawyers, adding that the organisers will not be applying for a police permit.

“We think that applying for a permit is a negation of our fundamental right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” he had explained.

“We feel the (Bar Council) march was called of due to undue pressure from the authorities. We want to send a message that the people of Malaysia have the right to a peaceful assembly,” Surendran said.

Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan meanwhile had explained that the decision to call off the march was made after “anxious consideration to the present circumstances that surround the event, particularly the interests of the public and the Malaysian Bar."

The Bar Council also moved its “Festival of Rights” event today to its own building located near Central Market after police insisted that organisers apply for a permit to hold the event at Central Market.

In a related development, Ambiga today expressed disappointed over not being allowed to see the arrested people.

Ambiga said that the march was peaceful and slammed the arrests as "totally unnecessary and unfortunate."

"The Bar holds the view that requirement of police permit is unconstitutional," she told reporters.

Meanwhile the police continued to exert pressure on the Bar Council over their ‘Festival of Rights’ by arresting the council’s human rights committee chairperson Edmund Bon, allegedly for preventing the authorities from performing their duty.

Eyewitnesses said that Edmund was arrested at about 12.45pm for blocking Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officials from removing human rights banners outside the Malaysian Bar building in Leboh Pasar Besar in Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, December 06, 2007



The Bar Council has called off the December 9 Human Rights Walk. I think it was a mistake to have done so, but I have no interest in debating here the rights and wrongs of that decision. I write solely to declare that Iawyers who are determined to defend the freedom to peacefully assemble will nevertheless march on Sunday Dec 9 at 7.30am from Sogo to Central Market in commemoration of Human Rights Day.

We will march for the following reasons :

a) because it is our inalienable right to do so;

b) because Article 10 of the Federal Constitution gives us the right;

c) because they've got some cheek telling us we've got to petition the constabulary before exercising our fundamental rights.A right which can only be exercised with the consent of the District Police Chief is a shrivelled up and pitiful kind of right. It is a shadow of the shadow of a right;

d) because we're inclined to be part of a culture of obedience to the high-handed directives of a tainted and unjust state apparatus;

e) because we're even less inclined to be menaced by a State which is so pathetically terrified of its citizens peacefully assembling.

Let us be clear about this: Any march/walk that is carried out under the authority and indulgence of the local police chief is not an assembly of free citizens. It is then nothing more than a chain-gang of miserable citizens marching under a cloud of fear.

The Bar Council as an institution has decided to cancel the march; but there is no reason why lawyers in their individual capacities and civil society groups should not carry on with the Sunday march. In view of the increasingly strident attacks by the authorities on the right to peacefully assemble, we have formed " Lawyers for Freedom of Assembly" to defend and protect that right. Caving in to the threats and hard tactics of the authorities will seriously set back the ongoing struggle for a just and free Malaysia.

All lawyers and civil society groups are welcome to join the " Lawyers for Freedom of Assembly" for our march on Sunday. Support this move to preserve the basic rights of all Malaysians.

Written by: N Surendran

For Inquiries:
N Surendran

Latheefa Koya
012 3842 972

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PAS to pay travel costs for detained woman's dad

Wednesday December 5, 2007 (Star)

PAS to pay travel costs for detained woman's dad

KOTA BARU: Kelantan PAS plans to pay travel costs and legal expenses for Mohamad Lazim, 50, father of Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim who is now detained in Guangzhou, China after she was sentenced to death by the High Court there for smuggling heroin.

Its committee member Datuk Husam Musa said Mohamad, a mechanic, met party officials Wednesday.

"We will also foot the legal expenses and engage a defence lawyer in China to handle the legal issues surrounding Umi," Husam said after attending the state exco meeting here.

Umi's mother Umi Slaia Ibrahim, 45, who sells "goreng pisang" near the family home in Kampung Tok Kamis, Pasir Puteh said she wanted to meet her daughter and find out how she ended up in jail, awaiting the death sentence.

She said her daughter travelled to China on a company errand to deliver equipment for foot massaging, adding that she was searched at the airport where among her possessions was a package containing heroin.

Pasir Puteh Umno division head Datuk Kamaruddin Md Noor is also taking an interest in the case and has sent officers to interview the family.

"Of course, we are concerned for any Malaysian citizen to be facing the gallows overseas. We would study where we can accord help," he said.

She was charged in May and sentenced to death in June. Under China's laws, she will be given two years to appeal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Malaysian gets death for drugs in China

Tuesday December 4, 2007 (Star)

Malaysian gets death for drugs in China

PASIR PUTEH (Kelantan): A 24-year-old woman from Kelantan has been sentenced to death by the Guangzhou High Court in China for trafficking in 2,983gm of heroin.

Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim was sentenced on May 15 and has two years from the date of conviction to file an appeal.

Her mother, Umi Slaia Ibrahim, 45, said the family had not heard from her for a year and was shocked to receive a letter dated July 12 from Wisma Putra stating that her daughter was being held in China since Jan 19.

Umi Azlim: Her family had not heard from her for a year.
“This is so distressing,” Umi Slaia said at her home in Kampung Tok Kamis here yesterday.

The drugs were found in Umi Azlim's luggage on arrival in Shantou.

Umi Azlim is a Universiti Malaysia Sabah graduate and said to have been working for a company selling foot massage equipment in Kuala Lumpur.

Her mother said Umi Azlim was frequently sent abroad as she was fluent in English.

“She used to call home regularly but the calls stopped in January,” she said.

Another Malaysian, Raja Munirah Raja Iskandar, 22, is being held at Tokyo's Kosuke detention centre also for drug smuggling. – Bernama

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NEED TO LOBBY TO ENSURE global moratorium on executions is adopted by the UN General Assembly..

The UN General Assembly would be voting on the RESOLUTION calling for a global moratorium on executions some time in mid-December (possibly on 10 or 11th December)

On 15/11/2007, a call for a global moratorium on executions by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee was an "historic resolution and major step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide" - but the real vote will be made at General Assembly - and we all need to lobby our countries to vote in favour of this resolution.

In Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar in 2006 passed a Resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty. There has been much debate - but the Malaysian government has not yet taken any moves towards abolition. On 15/11/2007, Malaysia was one of those that voted against on 15/11/2007 for the resolution that was adopted by 99 countries in favour, 52 against and 33 abstentions.

Before the vote on the 15th, Malaysia had this to say:-
Making the first explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Malaysia said the viewpoints of other countries had to be fully respected. The language in the draft resolution contained biased assumptions and erroneous facts. It was unfortunate the issue had come up during the current session and the Committee was divided. Malaysia would vote against the draft; whatever the outcome of the vote, it could not be seen as a victory for any side, as divisions caused by a draft represented a defeat for all. In any State, change had to be undertaken at a pace that the people of that country were comfortable with, free of outside pressure or interference. Conciliation was needed; that would not happen if the issue returned at future sessions. More reasonable heads had to prevail.

Thus, there is a need for Malaysians (in fact all ASEANs and others around the world) to do some serious lobbying to ensure that the UN Resolution for a global moratorium on executions is passed in December 2007.

Votes from Asian countries:
In favour: Australia, Cambodia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

Against: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga.

Abstain: Bhutan, Fiji, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nauru, Palau, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Viet Nam.

The arguments that were used by the opponents were mainly focusing on:
-the principle of non-intervention (article 2.7 of the UN Charter) of the UN in domestic matters, and the States' will to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity
-the perceived imposition of Western values --Singapore in particular was claiming that the resolution was an attempt by the EU to impose its values on the rest of the world
-the fact that the death penalty is a matter of national criminal justice systems and should not be considered under international human rights law
-the need to consider the right to life comprehensively, including abortion
-the fact that the death penalty is not illegal under International Law and there is no international consensus on it anyway.

We are reporting some of the statements made by representatives from Asian countries. We hope you find this information useful for any future lobbying against the death penalty. For full details please see:

Please keep up the lobbing - the vote is expected around 10/11 December. The vote in the UN General Assembly plenary will be an endorsement of the resolution adopted in the Third Committee on 15 November. It is possible for governments to change their votes and it is also possible for governments to oppose the resolution by making further amendments which we hope will not be the case!

Wednesday 14 November 2007
Introduction of the draft resolution and amendmends

The representative of the Philippines then made a statement in connection with action on the draft resolution entitled Moratorium on the use of the death penalty. She said the text was the result of a comprehensive effort by the main sponsors, who had worked in a transparent and cooperative manner. In a sincere effort, the main sponsors had made several modifications to the text, which had led to a rise in the number of co-sponsors. Beginning with the title, as well as the preambular and operative paragraphs, the focus of the draft was on a moratorium. Abolition would be the result of a step-by-step process. The text began with a reference to the Charter of the United Nations, and that document should be read and understood in its entirety; selective quotation would undermine the text. As the main sponsors had taken those changes to the text on board, the co-sponsors reiterated that such changes did not aim to challenge national sovereignty and were rather aimed at reinforcing the phasing out of the death penalty. Making a correction, she said she thought she had mentioned Rev.1, but there was no such document, and the Committee was still working on document A/C.3/62/L.29.

The representative of Pakistan, on behalf of member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that States belonging to the Conference strongly believed that every human being had a right to life. It was the duty of States to respect the right to life, in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant instruments. A number of States had exercised their sovereign right to impose a moratorium or to abolish the death penalty. For a majority of member States of the Organization, the issue was one related to their criminal justice systems, with an obligation on them to carry out the death penalty subject to competent courts and after exhausting all legal remedies. The OIC recognized that the issue of establishing a moratorium lacked international consensus, especially in view of existing international human rights instruments.

The representative of China said her delegation regretted the fact that the death penalty was again being discussed in the Third Committee, as there was no international consensus on its abolition. She said in 1994 and 1999, the General Assembly had discussed that issue without results. The death penalty was not prohibited by international law. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the death penalty might be imposed only because of the most serious of crimes. Deciding on the most appropriate penalty was a question of sovereignty and therefore a matter for the State. The Assembly was not the proper forum to address the death penalty question. To discuss the issue in such a political forum would only further politicize it. It was inappropriate to submit a draft resolution to the General Assembly which asked for a moratorium on the death penalty. She called upon all delegations to support the amendments proposed.

The representative of Singapore said that a divisive, unpleasant and unnecessary fight was about to begin. A group of countries led by the European Union had decided to table a resolution knowing fully well that it would not only not enjoy consensus, but that it would polarize the Committee. They had done so because they wanted to impose their values on others; apparently, anyone who had a different view had to be forced to change. The tabled amendments were a defence against the European Union’s aggressiveness. The ultimate objective of the main draft was not a moratorium, but the abolition of the death penalty. For many countries, such a penalty was a criminal justice matter, not a human rights issue, and despite what many co-sponsors claimed, that penalty could not be a violation of human rights, as it was not forbidden under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Now that all States in the European Union had abolished the death penalty, it expected all others to follow, he said. The Union wanted everyone to think as they did; “when their values ‘shift,’ our values should also ‘shift’.” If anyone had the audacity to be different, then the European Union thought it was open season to badger them. That trait had been seen before. Singapore supported the amendment introduced by Egypt; it was nonsense to argue that it was a selective quotation from the Charter of the United Nations. The Committee had before it a blatant attempt to impose the values of one set of countries upon everyone else.

The representative of Gabon, given the floor on a point of order, asked to correct what his counterpart from Singapore had said. The draft resolution on a moratorium was an interregional initiative, not an initiative of the European Union.

The Chairman said that the representative of Gabon was not making a point of order, but rather an explanation that could be delivered after a vote.

The representative of Gabon responded that it was necessary for delegations to be well-informed and to avoid confusion. Gabon was not in the European Union, but it was an African country that was supporting the initiative; others were from Asia and South America.

The representative of Timor-Leste said her country was one of the main sponsors of the cross-regional initiative and her delegation wished to state the following before the vote: the main sponsors had provided plenty of opportunity to put forward amendments. The amendment in question sought to undermine the spirit of the resolution. The purpose of the draft was not to intervene, but to reinforce a growing trend towards phasing out the death penalty, which was a legitimate concern of the international community. Timor-Leste would vote against it and urged others to do the same.

The representative of New Zealand, speaking as a co-author of the main draft “L.29”, said the amendment was a selective and partial quotation from the Covenant that was misleading and imbalanced. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights pointed to the abolition of capital punishment. The co-sponsors had been open to feedback, and the feedback had been that there was no wish for selective quotations from international instruments on which the main draft was founded. New Zealand would oppose the amendment.
In an explanation of position before the vote, the representative of New Zealand agreed with her counterpart from Uruguay that the amendment was unnecessary and, though it may be factual, that did not justify its inclusion. She said 130 countries –- or more than two thirds of the United Nations membership -- had abolished the death penalty, in law or in practice, for all crimes. The representative of Botswana had referred earlier in the day to inflated statistics. The number of Member States that still had the death penalty had sharply declined, a clear trend that had been mentioned in the main draft. The amendment was contrary to the spirit and intention of the main draft, and New Zealand would vote against it.

Thursday 15 November 2007
Statements before the vote on the draft resolution

Making the first explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Malaysia said the viewpoints of other countries had to be fully respected. The language in the draft resolution contained biased assumptions and erroneous facts. It was unfortunate the issue had come up during the current session and the Committee was divided. Malaysia would vote against the draft; whatever the outcome of the vote, it could not be seen as a victory for any side, as divisions caused by a draft represented a defeat for all. In any State, change had to be undertaken at a pace that the people of that country were comfortable with, free of outside pressure or interference. Conciliation was needed; that would not happen if the issue returned at future sessions. More reasonable heads had to prevail.

The representative of Singapore said the events of the past two days proved that the issue of a moratorium on capital punishment was a divisive one. There had never been a genuine desire on the part of the co-sponsors to seek consensus; the main sponsors had gone so far as to suspend freedom of expression. The Committee had become a forum for recrimination and self-righteous morality that brooked no dissent. Those behind the draft had acted in a sanctimonious, hypocritical and intolerant way, but that was not a surprise. The draft did not reflect the range of opinions that existed in the United Nations on the issue. The co-sponsors had contradicted the spirit of cooperation and consensus building that was supposed to be the foundation of the Committee’s work. Every State had a sovereign right to choose its own systems. Singapore would vote against the draft; to vote for it would be to encourage countries which sought to impose their views.

The representative of Nepal, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said there was no law in his country that provided for capital punishment. It was not Nepal’s intention, however, to impose values on others. It was possible, though, for humanity to abolish the death penalty, and his delegation thought the resolution would only encourage States to put moratoriums on the death penalty. Nepal would vote in favour of the resolution.

The representative of Thailand said the United Nations Charter could not interfere in matters pertaining to domestic affairs. As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Thailand was committed to upholding its commitments vis-à-vis that instrument, and the Convention did not prohibit the use of the death penalty. Thai law only permitted the death penalty for the most serious of crimes and violations, and no execution had been carried out for some time. Thailand would therefore vote against “L.29”.

Statements after the vote on the resolution

Speaking first after the vote, the representative of India said there had to be recognition that it was the sovereign right of States to determine their own legal systems, and added that there was no consensus on capital punishment. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights spoke only of the desirability of abolition of the death penalty. In India, the death penalty was an exception to be exercised in the rarest of rare occasions. His country had seen a single use of it since 1995, and there were many legal safeguards present. Indian law also had provisions for suspension of the death penalty for pregnant women, he said, adding that juveniles could never be sentenced to death in India. His delegation had not been in a position to support the draft resolution, as it went against his country’s statutory law.

The representative of Japan said he had voted against “L.29”. In his view, the question of abolishing the death penalty should be decided only after every country had considered the matter in light of its own criminal issues. Most of the public believed that the most vicious criminals should receive the death penalty. There was no international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, and it was regrettable that the resolution had been tabled without sufficient discussion. Many countries had voiced strong opposition to the proposal in informal meetings, but the sponsors had pursued the resolution’s passage despite that.

The representative of Viet Nam said he had abstained in the vote on the resolution because the death penalty was “indispensable” in Viet Nam at present, in order to ensure a peaceful life for the whole of the community. That penalty was applicable only to the most violent criminals, and not to children or pregnant women, among other groups. Viet Nam respected the decision by countries that had abolished the death penalty, given the concrete national situations. He stressed the importance of dialogue on human rights issues on the basis of common respect.

The representative of China said the fact that 50 countries had voted against the draft proved there was no consensus and there were therefore doubts about the effects of such a resolution. All countries had the right to choose their own judicial systems. The death penalty was an issue of criminal justice and was part of a country’s internal affairs. China regretted that two days had been spent on the resolution, which had increased tension and led to a major confrontation, and deplored also the request to vote on a separate paragraph. China could not accept that co-sponsors had applied pressure on other countries and did not wish to see a repeat of the process.

The representative of Bhutan said his country had abolished the death penalty, and would like to see that done worldwide. Nevertheless, he respected the right of each country to make its own laws, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. He had voted in accordance with that view.

The representative of Bangladesh said his country’s criminal justice system had provisions for the death penalty, but only in the case of the most heinous crimes. That sentence involved an exhaustive and transparent legal process, with opportunities for redress. The resolution just adopted was an example of the growing trend against the death penalty, but the time had not come yet for such a ban. He had been constrained to vote against the resolution.

The representative of Singapore congratulated the co-sponsors on their “pyrrhic victory”. The vote had proved that there was no international consensus on the resolution, as almost half of the delegations had not voted in its favour. That should be an indication that many delegations were uncomfortable with the resolution. Co-sponsors had brought the resolution fully aware of how acrimonious and divisive the issue was. He suspected that different countries, with their domestic considerations, would not impose a moratorium because of passage of the resolution. Domestic issues were clearly “irrelevant” to the co-sponsors, and the resolution had made a mockery of the Committee.

The representative of Myanmar said the country had not carried out capital punishment since 1988. Myanmar was not happy with how the resolution had been approved. Every Member State had the right to choose without interference, and the resolution as it had been drafted was, in Myanmar’s view, an attempt to impose a choice on countries. Thus, Myanmar had voted against “L.29”.

Working to protect human rights worldwide


60th AGM of Malaysian Bar – 18/3/2006

(which was adopted at the 60th AGM of the Malaysian Bar on 18/3/2006)

WHEREAS every human being has the inherent right to life;

WHEREAS Malaysia has hanged at least 358 persons between 1981 and 2005;

WHEREAS about 173 persons are on death row as at December 2005;


a) studies conducted throughout the world over the past seventy years have failed to find convincing evidence that capital punishment is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment;

b) studies conducted in Australia show that abolition of the death penalty had no effect on the homicide rate and in Canada there in fact was a sharp decline in the homicide rate after abolition;

c) in the United States over the past twenty years, states with the death penalty in general have had a higher homicide rate than states without the death penalty;

WHEREAS on the other hand the execution of human beings by the State gives an ‘example of barbarity’ to society and legitimizes the taking of human life;

WHEREAS Malaysia lacks safeguards that would ensure a fair trial such as the right to immediate access to a lawyer upon arrest, right to full disclosure of evidence in the possession of the police and prosecution, and has to the extreme prejudice of accused persons loaded a capital crime statute such as the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 ( which generates the largest number of death sentences annually ) with presumptions of trafficking that compromise the presumption of innocence which is integral to any fair and just criminal justice system;


a) it is not possible in any system of human justice to prevent the horrifying possibility of the execution of innocent persons; and

b) the infliction of the death penalty makes wrongful convictions irreversible;


a) 122 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice as opposed to 74 countries which retain the death penalty;

b) An average of three countries have abolished the death penalty each year over the last decade;

c) the trend worldwide has been for the abolition of the death penalty;

WHEREAS the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2005/59 passed in 2005 calls upon all states to abolish the death penalty and states that the abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of the right to life of every human being;

WHEREAS Article 1 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that ‘ No one within the jurisdiction of a State party to the present Optional Protocol shall be executed ’.

WHEREAS the death penalty has no place in any society which values human rights, justice and mercy;

NOW IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that the Malaysian Bar calls for the:

1) Abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia;

2) An immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition;

3) Commutation of the sentences of all persons currently on death row;

4) Ratification by Malaysia of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Proposers: N.Surendran , Charles Hector, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Sreekant Pillai

* the facts and statistics relied on here are from Professor Roger Hood’s The Death Penalty( A Worldwide Perspective) OUP 2002, Amnesty International and statistics released by the Government of Malaysia.

UN adopts landmark decision on global moratorium on executions

UN adopts landmark decision on global moratorium on executions

Today's call for a global moratorium on executions by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee is an "historic resolution and major step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide", Amnesty International said.

The landmark decision had cross-regional support and was co-sponsored by 87 states from around the world.

The resolution was adopted by 99 countries in favour, 52 against and 33 abstentions. The General Assembly is expected to endorse the decision in a plenary session in December.

"Amnesty International calls on all countries to establish a moratorium on executions as soon as the General Assembly endorses the resolution later this year," said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

In 1971 and 1977 the General Assembly adopted two resolutions on capital punishment, saying that it was "desirable" for states to abolish the death penalty.

Today's resolution goes further, calling on states that still maintain the death penalty "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty". It urges these states "to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty" and "progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed."

The resolution also requests the UN Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly in 2008 on the implementation of the resolution.

Today's decision -- adopted by the UN's highest political body with universal membership -- is a clear recognition of the growing international trend towards worldwide abolition of the death penalty, endorsed by the UN Secretary-General," said Irene Khan. "It is a crucial step forward in creating a death penalty free-world -- as envisaged by the General Assembly three decades ago."

Although the resolution is not legally binding on states, it carries considerable moral and political weight, as it was adopted by the UN's principal organ in which all UN members participate.

"Establishing a moratorium on executions is an important tool to convince states still using the death penalty to engage in a nationwide debate and to review their laws on capital punishment. If death penalty laws are under review, it is only fair to stop executing people in the meantime," said Irene Khan.

The cross-regional initiative for a global moratorium on executions was led by ten countries: Albania, Angola, Brazil, Croatia, Gabon, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal (for the EU) and Timor Leste.

Background information
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, without exception. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights -- the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

So far, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Only 25 countries actually carried out executions in 2006. In 2006, 91 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the US. Amnesty International's statistics also show an overall decline in the number of executions in 2006 -- a recorded 1,591 executions, compared to 2,148 in 2005.

Monday, November 19, 2007

UN panel votes for death penalty moratorium

UN panel votes for death penalty moratorium

Fri 16 Nov 2007, 6:40 GMT

By Claudia Parsons

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. committee voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in a key step toward the passing of the nonbinding motion by the world body.

Opponents had tried to derail the resolution in the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee by inserting amendments on the right to life of unborn children.

More than 15 amendments were voted down in two days of acrimonious debate that touched on whether the death penalty was a human rights issue or a domestic matter. Some Caribbean and other countries accused the European Union, a key backer of the text, of seeking to impose its values on other nations.

The resolution, which calls for "a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," was passed 99-52 with 33 abstentions. It is likely to go to the full 192-member assembly in mid-December where supporters say they expect few countries to change their position.

"It's a question of coherence -- a country that votes in a certain way here will do so there," Italian Ambassador Marcello Spatafora told Reuters shortly before the vote.

Eighty-seven countries -- including the 27 EU states, more than a dozen Latin American countries and eight African states -- jointly introduced the draft resolution, though opponents singled out the EU as the driving force.

Two similar moves in the 1990s failed in the assembly. This time, the text of the resolution stops short of an outright demand for immediate abolition.


Vanu Gopala Menon, ambassador of Singapore which has a mandatory death penalty for most drug offenses, accused those who brought the resolution to the committee of being "sanctimonious, hypocritical and intolerant."

Barbados was among the most vocal in complaining that "a group of countries" was trying to impose its will, saying it had been threatened with the withdrawal of aid over the issue.

Human rights organization Amnesty International welcomed the vote as a "historic resolution and a major step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide."

"Although the resolution is not legally binding on states, it carries considerable moral and political weight," Amnesty International said in a statement.

China, Iran, Iraq, the United States, Pakistan and Sudan account for about 90 percent of all executions worldwide.

According to Amnesty, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice -- a statistic that opponents of the resolution contested. They said more than 100 countries retained capital punishment on their statutes, even if they did not all use it.

Botswana's representative Rhee Hetanang said the death penalty was a domestic criminal justice issue. "No amount of intimidation and bullying will cause us to go against the expressed wish of the people of Botswana," he said.

Egypt and Iran were among countries proposing a last-minute amendment that would have urged member states "to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of unborn children."

The United States, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe were among the countries voting for that amendment. It was rejected 83-28 with 47 abstentions.

"We are in agreement with the view expressed in this amendment that the lives of the unborn deserve the strongest protection, and we agree that countries that advocate for the abolition of the death penalty should be at least equally scrupulous in showing concern for innocent life," U.S. representative Joseph Rees said.

The United States abstained in a vote on a more strongly worded amendment that would have said abortion was only admissible in necessary cases, "in particular where the life of the mother and or the child is at serious risk."

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Conspiracy to export monkeys for profit: NGO

Conspiracy to export monkeys for profit: NGO
Bede Hong | Oct 19, 07 7:28pm

A wildlife conservation group wants the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to look into alleged business dealings involving a minister and a former director-general where wild monkeys are being exported for profit.

The group said the ACA must investigate Environment Minister Azmi Khalid (photo) and former Department of Wildlife and National Parks DG Musa Nordin, who retired last October, for abuse of power.

Malaysian Animal Rights and Welfare Society (Roar) believes that a company linked to the two is the beneficiary of a export programme created under the guise to trim down the population of long-tailed macaques in Peninsular Malaysia.

Roar submitted a memorandum to ACA office in Kuala Lumpur today calling for investigation into the matter. Accompanying the group were DAP and PKR officials.

Roar consists of Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (SSPCA), Malaysian Animal Assisted Therapy for Disabled Association, PKR and Malaysian Association for Responsible Pet Ownership.

Motivated by profit

“We are angry that the animals are being exploited by the very ministry tasked to protect them,” Roar pro-tem chairperson N Surendran told a press conference today.

Surendran said ACA should investigate whether a recent lifting of the ban on the export of macaques was motivated by profit.

In June, against international convention, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry lifted a 23-year ban on the export of macaques, saying there is an overpopulation of the species.

In July, Roar submitted a memorandum to the minister demanding the reinstatement of the ban and a halt on all pending macaque shipments. They also lodged a police report against Azmi and ministry officials for violating Section 92(f) of the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.

The police forwarded the case to the ACA last month, saying it has elements of abuse of power.

“We found this very suspicious. All animal rights groups and wildlife experts found it very strange. The question is why the ministry is bent on exporting these monkeys? I will give you the answer right now... money,” said Surendran.

“The ministry wants to make money out of it, and the ministry is allowing a private company to make money out of it. The question here is why is the Malaysian environment and natural resources being plundered in order to profit some company,” he said.

RM250 for one monkey

Surendran referred to a news article published by the Star on Sept 11, where Musa admitted he was “indirectly involved” in the monkey trade.

“We have information that the decision to export the monkey when Musa Nordin was still the DG. We have information that there is connection with the company. He has close contacts with the Department of Wildlife. Clearly there was some hanky panky going on there with elements of corruption,” he said.

According to Roar, each exported monkey brings in RM250. The macaques are exported, mostly to China, for animal testing and vivisection.

Roar alleged that the export contract of over 20,000 monkeys annually was given by the Environment Ministry to a company, Sunny K-9 Sdn Bhd. A check revealed that the company, based in Ipoh, is a dog-training academy.

Surendran also disagreed with the Environment Ministry figures that there are over 250,000 monkeys living near urban centres and over 500,000 monkeys living in the jungles.

“We question the figures because experts found that it was not possible to calculate the precise number of monkeys through the ministry’s methodology. I feel the figures are grossly over-estimated to justify the lifting of a ban,” said Surendran.

Surendran said the ministry should pursue alternative ways to reduce the macaque population including sterilisation, relocation and humane culling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Death Penalty: Need to find out why people kill (malaysiakini - letter)

Death penalty: Need to find out why people kill
Charles F Moreira
Oct 17, 07 4:00pm

I refer to the Malaysiakini letter, Death penalty will not save our little ones.

Perhaps the death penalty, which we already have and which will most probably be applied to those convicted of causing Nurin Jazlin Jazimin’s death will not deter such things from happening in the future but Amnesty International's solution, which reads like gobbledegook to me, misses issues of the value systems in our current society leading people to commit such heinous, perverted acts.

Rather sociological studies should be done to understand why people do such things, including the stresses and alienation of urban life, acquisitive culture, the influence of pornography through the Internet and pirated DVDs and so on, and action needs to be taken to address these, even though it may mean a whole rethink of our development policy and competitive, capitalist

Of course, achieving such changes under the present government may be impossible, so perhaps we need a different government, which will reverse the situation and move back towards a more humane and caring society of the past.

Death penalty will not save our little ones (malaysiakini-letter)

Death penalty will not save our little ones
Shanon Shah Mohd Sidik
Oct 11, 07 3:21pm

Amnesty International Malaysia is outraged by the brutal murder of eight-year-old Nurin Jazlin. We offer our deepest condolences to her family members and loved ones. This disgusting and terrifying crime is a sad reflection of how unsafe our country really is for girls.

It is depressing, but the reality is that Nurin is just the latest in a series of girls who have died as a result of sexual abuse and violent crimes. Many in this nation have not even fully recovered from the brutal rape and murder of 10-year-old Nurul Huda Abd Ghani in Johor Bharu back in January 2004.

Public outrage in this matter is completely understandable. However, calls for the death penalty to be applied to the offenders of this crime are misplaced.

In fact, countless men and women have been executed worldwide for the stated purpose of preventing crime, especially the crime of murder and sexual violence. Yet Amnesty International has failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty has any unique capacity to deter others from commuting particular crimes.

A survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 2002, concluded: ". . .it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment."

However, Amnesty does hold that governments have the responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone who lives in the country. According to international standards, governments must first of all respect people's human rights – in other words, governments themselves must not violate human rights.

Governments must also protect peoples' rights – ensuring that other people or bodies do not abuse people's rights. And lastly, governments must fulfil human rights, making them a reality in people's everyday experiences.

In the case of children, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a legally binding UN treaty that Malaysia has ratified, clearly states in Article 34 that:

"States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse."

Article 37(a) of the CRC states: "No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment."

The state might argue that it is impossible to prevent violations against girls, especially if they are perpetrated by individual members of society. But this is precisely where preventing harm towards all potential victims requires the strengthening of the general judicial and administrative framework, including effective education for everyone on gender and human rights.

At the same time, law enforcement officials need to be sensitised on the specific nature and impacts of violence against women and girls. This principle is called due diligence on the part of the government, and it is enshrined in the CRC and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), another legally-binding UN treaty ratified by Malaysia.

Amnesty International Malaysia would like to see the Malaysian government and the police force being more proactive in addressing these concerns, in consultation with women's organisations, shelters, and individual men, women and girls from the public. The nation mourns Nurin Jazlin. Let us never have to mourn another girl child in these circumstances ever again.

The writer is executive director, Amnesty International Malaysia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

‘Spare the whip, it’s cruel’

Human rights and the law: ‘Spare the whip, it’s cruel’

Contributed by Renuka T. Balasubramaniam
Thursday, 27 September 2007 09:00am

©The Sun

Human Rights & The LawThe Malaysian Bar at its AGM last March passed a resolution declaring that the corporal punishment of whipping is cruel, inhumane and degrading and called for its abolishment. Human rights lawyer Renuka T. Balasubramaniam produces compelling and cogent reasons why all Malaysians should declare whipping barbaric.

I got six. It was just incredible pain. Burning – like someone sticking a hot iron on your bum. That’s the sort of feeling. Pain – just ultimate pain. The strokes come one a minute, but it seemed like a lifetime to me. I waited and waited for the first one and as soon as I let my breath out – ‘baam’. Afterwards my bum looked like a side of beef. There were three lines of raw skin with blood oozing out.” – New Zealander Aaron Cohen who received six strokes in 1982 for drug trafficking.

AMONG the many laws of Malaysia, 29 Acts of Parliament – such as the Dangerous Drugs Act, Immigration Act, Moneylender’s Act and the Child Act – and a further 48 sections under the Penal Code call for the punishment of rotan or whipping. Some offences provide for the maximum number of 20 strokes.

The recent YouTube posting depicting actual footage of a prisoner being given the maximum 20 strokes of the rotan by Malaysian prison authorities caused worldwide revulsion. The bloods-pattered video was deemed so horrific by the YouTube user community that it was “removed due to terms of use violations”, while a second similar video carried a condition that one would first have to declare that he/she is 18 or older by logging in or signing up.

Readers are hereby challenged to watch it in its entirety, and see how they feel about whipping afterwards.

International condemnation

Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee have condemned whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment and contrary to human rights law.

Law Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz even relied on this international condemnation of whipping when he explained in Parliament during the debate on the Anti-Trafficking Bill that Malaysia, having aspirations of being a good UN citizen, had purposely excluded whipping as a form of punishment from the Bill.

The UN Committee Against Torture has called for the abolition of corporal punishment and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has stated that “corporal punishment” is inconsistent with the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.

Accordingly, the Malaysian Bar, at its AGM earlier this year, passed a resolution declaring that whipping is cruel, inhumane and degrading and called for the abolition of the sentence in any legislation, and particularly against offenders of the Immigration Act.

The World Refugee Survey in 2005 placed Malaysia as one of the worst offenders of refugee rights, documenting cruel and inhumane treatment in our prisons and detention camps. On top of this, migrant and refugee communities, by virtue of the penalties under the Immigration Act, are the primary victims of corporal punishment. Oftentimes the punishment of caning, although discretionary, is handed down, as a deterrent.

I have observed first-hand that it is not uncommon for judges to sentence immigration offenders to at least two strokes each.

In deciding that whipping must be abolished, the Malaysian Bar also considered it from a larger perspective and took the view shared by many, that because it is cruel and inhumane, no one should have to bear that suffering, and therefore called for the abolishment of caning for all offences.

Administering cruelty

The person administering the sentence is in fact administering cruelty on another human being under the guise of carrying out orders. These orders are, in turn, derived from a policy that disregards the universally accepted spiritual principle of non-violence.

As a member of the human race, I believe I am duty-bound to do what I can to subvert the continuance of these wrongs against humanity. I believe that one day, humanity can agree that the taking of life or causing grievous bodily harm intentionally and under any circumstances, especially via sentencing principles, is wrong.


There are those who say that the fear of being caught and subject to penal consequences deters crime. But a recent study on the deterrent effect of longer prison sentences by David S. Lee of Columbia University and Justin McCrary of Michigan University showed that the threat of increased penalties does not seem to alter criminal behaviour.

Their findings suggest that potential criminals do not think at all of the consequences of their actions before committing crimes, thereby negating the effect of harsher criminal sanctions.

The Ouimet Report by the Canadian Committee on Penal and Correctional Reform published in 1969, had this to say: “Traditional prisons tear the individual away from his duties towards his family, his community, his education and his work and isolate him in an abnormal community where he is exposed to a code of values established by criminals. Opportunities to make decisions, which are such an important factor in social rehabilitation, are extremely rare. It is difficult to imagine a system less conducive to life in society than traditional prisons.”

Add to this the humiliation of being whipped, and one cannot possibly derive a conclusion that punishments of imprisonment and whipping are for the benefit of ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘deterrence’.

When the death penalty was abolished in the United Kingdom many decades ago, it became evident from studies that the number of murders did not increase. It remained more or less constant. This is frequently cited as authority against the death penalty and on the subject of how deterrence simply does not work.

Dysfunctional personalities

I hold the opinion that criminal tendencies – all of them – are symptoms of dysfunctional personalities. The cause of these dysfunctional personalities usually can be simplified to inadequate or non-existent parenting and the absence of love or compassion in their lives.

This we can imagine is a reason the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development is attempting to promote the idea that the family unit is core in the development of the community. I really believe that we cannot rid society of its evils, but we can substitute evil with values that are true, good and beautiful.

Public opinion

Often, the principles of sentencing seek to reflect public opinion. Realistically, if the education, socio-economic background and even the self-sufficiency of the public today were to be considered as a whole, the public would be represented by your average lower-middleclass man in the street with not much education, little economic influence, little political influence, little self-confidence and fear-based reactions to all events occurring around him. He has a very limited perspective of his environment, and out of this ”ignorance“’ he may seek to cling to what he knows and believes as the only way of protecting himself.

Thus ”public opinion” would be based on the lowest common denominator. This is evident where “public opinion’ on whipping is based on the principles of retribution, ”teaching a lesson” and using fear tactics to ensure that society toes the line.

So, instead of reflecting public opinion, members of the Bar are taking the initiative to actually lead public opinion by lobbying the fact that the public interest would be best served if the offender is induced to turn from criminal ways to more wholesome living.

The Malaysian Bar has, with its resolution, avowed to lead public opinion by rejecting and denouncing the sentence of whipping as it is anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society in a developed nation.

Although revenge and retribution in individuals may be understandable, society as a whole should not operate on such base principles because it cannot be forced to react through legislation, to the strong feelings of victims of crime.

To this end, prison rehabilitation programmes should be revamped and tailored toward psychological counselling, encouraging a convict into self-examination through which it is hoped he may gain insight into his actions.

In the example of the brutal rapist, society should harbour the faintest hope that some of these offenders, upon undergoing rehabilitation, may experience a desire to make amends as a result of the compassion and counselling he has received and thus be motivated to do something good for society or his family upon his release.


Whipping has failed as a retributory and deterrent sentence, just as strict and painful discipline on children inevitably results in their becoming more rebellious, almost as if to validate the opinion of their parents that they are “naughty” kids. It is time for Malaysia to subscribe to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and reject corporal punishment altogether as a form of sentencing. We all have the ability to affect the consciousness of members of our family, community, nation and planet. The voices of those who support cruelty are loud, but the silent majority can make themselves heard.

Renuka T. Balasubramaniam is a member of the Human Rights Committee (HRC), Bar Council Malaysia. For information on the work of the HRC, see Complaints of rights violations may be forwarded to my for consideration of the committee. However, we make no assurance that all cases will be adopted for action.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Animal rights groups protest against dog catching competition

Animal rights groups protest against dog catching competition

Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 07:50am

Stop this cruelty: Representatives from various animal rights group and animal lovers waiting outside the MPS building.©The Star
by Stuart Michael and Geraldine Jeremiah
Photo by Stuart Michael

About 50 people comprising representatives from various animal rights organisations and animal lovers went to the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) in Bandar Baru Selayang on Monday to pass a memorandum to its president Zainal Abidin Azim. The memorandum called for an immediate end to the dog-catching competition organised by the council.

Holding placards that condemned cruelty to animals, the group led by Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) chairperson Christine Chin, waited for Zainal to accept the memorandum but since he was on leave, MPS public relations officer Helda Syima Abu Talab accepted it on his behalf.

Upon receiving the memorandum, Helda assured the group that it would be handed over to Zainal and a meeting would be arranged soon with SPCA.

Despite it being a peaceful gathering, some outsiders were seen shouting insults at the group in order to provoke them, but after delivering the memorandum, the group dispersed quietly.

Chin said that apart from requesting for an end to the competition, the memorandum also contained request for highly effective spaying or neuter initiatives and fines against irresponsible pet owners who abandon their pets.

“We also want an implementation of a smart, humane and effective legislation to promote responsible pet ownership,'' she said.

Apart from Chin, the memorandum was also signed by Malaysian Animal Rights and Welfare Association president N. Surendran, Petpositive president Anthony Thanasayan and Malaysian Association for Responsible Pet Ownership president Dr John Satyamoorthy, who were also present at the gathering.

Asked about Rawang assemblyman Datuk Tang See Hang's proposed meeting with SPCA, Chin said that she had not received any letter or call from Tang's office about the meeting.

Dog handler and professional groomer Noraini Rozaiti Mahamud, 35, when questioned on the issue of the strays posing a threat to residents said that dogs reacted aggressively only when they were threatened and dogs were not likely to attack unprovoked.

“This competition would inherently attract over-zealous residents without experience in handling dogs. This could result in someone getting injured and the dogs being blamed and crucified for attacking a person,'' she said.

Retired Selayang Hospital head nurse Kamala Chelliah, 57 said that she read about the Dog Catching Competition in the papers and turned up to show her dissatisfaction.

Kamala felt that the authorities could come up with a better solution to address this matter.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Torturous wait on Death Row

Torturous wait on Death Row
Baradan Kuppusamy
Sep 4, 07 12:19pm

"Hang me or release me but don't leave me to suffer a slow death," is the cry of anguish from Baha Jambol, 45, who has been suspended helplessly on Death Row for nine long years, unable to appeal the sentence.

He was sentenced to death in April 1998 for being in possession of 50kg of cannabis. He is unable to appeal because the trial judge has failed to put pen to paper and give the grounds sentencing him to ‘death by hanging’.

Jambol's desperate predicament is not unique. It is the result of a serious flaw in Malaysia’s criminal justice system.

"Without a written judgement, we can't appeal," Karpal Singh (photo), Jambol's lawyer and prominent human rights campaigner, told IPS.

Jambol, a driver, was at the wheel of a car when the cannabis was found inside. But the car owner who was with him at the time was acquitted.

The scandal of the ink-shy judge, who is loath to put his judgments on paper, has shocked the nation and led to renewed demands for a swift end to the death penalty.

"This case is a severe travesty of justice. Jambol has been languishing on Death Row for nine years… what can be crueller than this? I urge the government to immediately abolish the death penalty and end the misery of people on Death Row," said Karpal.

Others too wait in great misery in the country's overcrowded jails for the same reason.

Aziz Sharif, 28, was sentenced to death in 2001 for murdering his girlfriend, a conviction that his lawyer Harbahjan Singh said is deeply flawed. Six years on, Harbahjan is still blocked from filing an appeal because there is no written judgement.

Aziz is suffering severe mental torture while waiting to know his fate, according to his family, who are poor rice farmers from Negeri Sembilan.

According to a New Straits Times report, they have appealed to the court numerous times to get the judge to write his judgment but without success.

"I wrote five letters to the court over the matter and sadly they did not have the decency to reply to any of the letters," Harbahjan told the paper.

Haszaidi Hasan, also sentenced to death for drug trafficking in 2001, is another case in point.

Denial of justice

Opposition politicians and rights activists are now pressing for action against Malaysia's indolent judges.

"Their lackadaisical attitude has hamstrung the administration of justice to people who need it the most," DAP lawmaker M Kulasegaran said.

"If the judges had done their basic duties the convicted persons could have speedily filed their appeals and probably been acquitted. A long delay is a mark of a poor criminal justice system.”

He urged the government to set free Death Row inmates caught in this predicament, adding that “a more lasting and more humane solution is to abolish the death penalty".

The cases have also been taken up by the rights group Malaysians Against the Death Penalty.

"Prisoners facing capital punishment are under severe pressure if their appeals are delayed," said co-director and lawyer Charles Hector.

"Judges should understand the tremendous pressure the death penalty generates… delaying the right to appeal is an act of utmost cruelty. Family members are also left emotionally drained by the uncertainties and the long meaningless delays. It is an intolerable form of torture.

"This tragic delay is another reason to review the death penalty. We demand an immediate moratorium on all executions pending the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia."

Amnesty International also wants an immediate moratorium on all further executions, while the Bar Council has asked lawyers to report back cases where clients are enduring a "slow death" because of long-delayed or non-existent written judgements.

The Council plans to present Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim with a list of serious cases. The hope is that offending judges will be penalised, a sanction that might finally end such torment.

Malaysia imposes the death penalty for a raft of offences, from drug trafficking (15gm of heroin and 200gm of cannabis) to poisoning the water supply. Murder, possession of firearms and treason carry a mandatory death sentence.

More than 1,000 persons have been executed since independence in 1957 and some 300 are currently awaiting execution, many of them Acehnese from Indonesia convicted of trafficking cannabis. - IPS