27 MARCH 2017
I wholeheartedly agree with the call by human rights advocates that capital punishment be removed for all crimes currently punishable by death.
The imposition of the death penalty was believed to act as a deterrent against crime but there is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment is an effective deterrent. Those who are about to commit crimes do not stop and sit down to weigh the consequences if they are caught, especially those who commit murder. I believe most people do not even know what the penalties are for various crimes, except for drug trafficking, as that is well-publicised, but even that does not have any deterrent effect, judging from the unabating illegal drug activities in this country.
Capital punishment does not give the offender the chance to be rehabilitated, but I believe that people can change, and there are many offenders who do change. Whether it is through spiritual input, professional counselling or even the ageing process, many former criminals have changed their attitudes towards crime and emerged as reformed individuals. There is ample evidence of such transformations and I believe that we should not give up on anyone, even hard-core criminals.
There is also the human rights aspect, that executing people runs contrary to the principle of holding high regard for the sanctity of human life. I do not believe that we have the right to end someone else’s life, and executions merely serve to label us as barbaric while having no deterrent effect on crime.
Most horrifying of all, once the death sentence is carried out, it is too late to reverse the decision or to compensate the executed if it is later discovered that there has been a miscarriage of justice. This is not merely a hypothetical situation, as there are documented cases of people being executed for crimes they did not commit.
Researchers in the US in 2014 found that that over 4% of death row inmates were innocent, calling this a conservative estimate. If this is applied to the number of death row inmates in Malaysia, there could be 32 people languishing in prison waiting to be executed for crimes they are innocent of. This is not inconceivable, given the pressures and limitations that our criminal justice system operates under. The idea that the innocent could be executed is so abhorrent that of itself, that would be reason enough to abolish the death penalty.
I agree with Suara Rakyat Malaysia director Sevan Doraisamy that the death penalty is not a solution to crime and should be abolished.
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan