PETALING JAYA, Oct 11 — The Malaysian Bar has urged the government to ensure that the more than 1,250 convicts currently on death row are spared in line with the Cabinet’s decision to abolish the death penalty.
Its president George Varughese said in a statement that the government would need to work with the Pardons Board at both the federal and state levels to ensure that executions are not carried out.
“All death sentences should be commuted to sentences of imprisonment that are proportionate to the gravity of offences committed, and take into consideration the mitigating factors and distinctive circumstances that surround each case.
“Only then will the punishment meted out be both just and effective,” he said.
Varughese said the Cabinet had made a “clearly correct and conscionable” decision to abolish the death penalty.
He added the Malaysian Bar had long advocated and campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty, passing resolutions to that effect at numerous annual general meetings.
“The death penalty, as a form of retributive justice, is akin to taking “an eye for an eye” — it does not assure a safe and secure society, but diminishes our collective humanity. Very little is achieved in having the death penalty, except to satisfy the need for revenge. In a modern society, we must focus more on rehabilitation and restoration,” he said in a statement.
“The Malaysian Bar is steadfast in our view that life is sacred, and every person has an inherent right to life.”
He pointed out that this right is enshrined in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which shuns the arbitrary deprivation of life.
“The right to life is a fundamental right that must be absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of the crime committed by the accused person. As we progress in our democratic development, we must shift away from killing people in the name of ‘justice’,” said Varughese.
The Malaysian Bar, he said, was ever ready to assist the government in fully realising the total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.
Datuk Liew Vui Keong, the minister in-charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department, yesterday announced the Cabinet decision, adding that all executions have been halted.
He said the government will propose the abolition of the death penalty in the Parliament sitting which begins on October 15.