countries had completely abolished the death penalty by the end of 2017
people were executed in 2016 (excluding China) – down 4% from 2016
of people were likely executed in China, but the numbers remain classified
We know that, together, we can end the death penalty everywhere.
Every day, people are executed and sentenced to death by the state as punishment for a variety of crimes – sometimes for acts that should not be criminalized. In some countries, it can be for drug-related offences, in others it is reserved for terrorism-related acts and murder.
Some countries execute people who were under 18 years old when the crime was committed, others use the death penalty against people with mental and intellectual disabilities and several others apply the death penalty after unfair trials – in clear violation of international law and standards. People can spend years on death row, not knowing when their time is up, or whether they will see their families one last time.
Our new report, Death Sentences and Executions 2017, reveals that the number of executions declined by 4% compared to 2016 and the number of death sentences fell by 17%.
However, more than 21,000 people remain on death row around the world and several countries resumed executions.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. We campaign for total abolition of capital punishment.
Crimes punishable by death in Malaysia:
- Drug trafficking
- Waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King)
- Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder
- Possession of Firearms
- Abetting Mutiny (Armed Forces)
- Hostage taking
The Death Penalty in Malaysia
Death sentences are carried out by hanging as provided in Section 281 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Pregnant women and children may not be sentenced to death.
Previously, Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 imposed the mandatory death penalty for crimes involving drug trafficking. In December 2017, the government amended Section 39B aimed at giving more room to the court to exercise its discretionary power in sentencing those convicted for drug trafficking. The alternative sentence is imprisonment for life and whipping of note less than 15 strokes
According to figures by Amnesty International, Malaysia is among the only seven countries in the world where the death penalty is known to have been implemented for drug-related offences in 2016. As of 15 October 2018, 1,267 prisoners on death row, which includes 900 inmates convicted of drug-related offences, namely trafficking in dangerous drugs or offence 39B under the Penal Code.
Only the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (the King) and Sultans of each state have the power to grant clemency to death row prisoners, through a pardons board, to commute their sentence to life imprisonment — in which the inmates will serve time for a minimum of 30 years. According to the Prisons Department, the pardons board of various states in Malaysia commuted the death sentences of 165 people who had been sent to death row from 2007 to 2017. During the same time, 35 executions took place. As of June 2018, 1,267 are people on death row.
On June 29, 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail stated that the government is looking into the need to make amendments to do away with the mandatory death penalty in legislation pertaining to criminal offences. On 10 October 2018, Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said that “all death penalty will be abolished”. The bill to abolish the death penalty is expected to be reviewed in the current parliament sitting. Currently all executions are temporarily suspended. Amnesty International released a statement calling for the Malaysian Parliament to cosign the death penalty to the history books.
Malaysia’s International commitments
Malaysia is neither a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) nor its Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (1989). In March 2014, Malaysia rejected all recommendations to establish a moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty made by fellow UN-member states at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, aimed at improving the country’s human rights situation.
A public opinion survey carried out in 2012 by, the Death Penalty Project (DPP) in association with the Malaysian Bar Council, found that “Malaysians believed in the death Penalty but were not willing to mete it out”. This encouraging outcome indicates that with the right amount of awareness and education the public can be convinced that the death penalty is in fact an infringement of one’s human rights.
Lack of transparency in meeting out death sentences in Malaysia
Malaysia has earned a reputation for meting out death sentences in secrecy. Along with countries like India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Sudan, as well as in some cases in Iran, neither prisoners nor their families or lawyers were informed of their forthcoming execution. AI Malaysia criticises Malaysia for continuing to carry out executions in secrecy which is in direct violation of international standards. In 2013, there were at least two executions which were known to have taken place in Malaysia and both executions were shrouded in secrecy as the authorities did not make any public announcement about the imminent executions nor were there any posthumous information about the executed individuals.
Hoo Yew Wah, a Malaysian national of Chinese ethnicity, remained on death row at Bentong prison, Pahang State, central Malaysia. In March 2005, at the age of 20, he was found in possession of 188.35 grams of methamphetamine, automatically presumed to be trafficking drugs and later convicted of trafficking under section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952. He was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty on 12 May 2011. The courts rejected his appeals in September 2012 and July 2013. His April 2014 petition for a pardon to the Sultan of Johor State, where the offence took place, remained pending. He turned 32 years old in 2017 and said he repented his offence.
“If given a chance, I want to prove that I have changed.”
Hoo Yew Wah — 8 years on death row for drug trafficking
Hoo Yew Wah was convicted on the basis of a statement he made at the time of arrest in Mandarin language, his mother tongue, without a lawyer present, and the content of which he contested at trial and on appeal. He also said that on the day after his arrest, and during his detention at the District Police Headquarter in Johore, the police broke his finger and threatened to beat his girlfriend to make him sign this statement. While these concerns were raised before the courts, the judges dismissed them and upheld his conviction and sentence. International law absolutely prohibits the use of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as the use of coerced, self-incriminating statements as evidence to convict.
Additionally, the UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty clearly state that “Capital punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts.