Amnesty’s concerns over ‘diyat’ for death row convicts


Source: FMT News

Human rights body says ‘diyat’ inconsistent with international human rights laws and is discriminatory as it puts the poor at a disadvantage. Pic from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Amnesty International Malaysia says it has several concerns over the Pahang Pardons Board’s plans to adopt the Islamic law of “diyat” as an alternative to granting pardons to convicts awaiting the death sentence.

AI Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said these concerns included the “diyat” not being consistent with international human rights laws, giving a private individual the power to decide on a person’s life and the “discriminatory nature” of the “diyat”, which puts the poor at a disadvantage.

“Any alternative to hanging a human being is a welcome move. However, we need to consider the roles of the pardons board and the state in deciding whether to preserve or end human life.

“Amnesty International Malaysia believes that power to end life should never lie in the hands of the state as much as it should not lie in the hands of private individuals,” she said, adding it was the discretion of state pardons boards to offer clemency.

“The former Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions had noted that the ‘diyat’ may operate inconsistently with international human rights law, in particular with the guarantees of non-discrimination and due process when the death penalty is imposed,” she said in a statement to FMT.

She said the right to seek a commutation or pardon for a condemned prisoner is a right recognised under international law as a safeguard of due process.

“When the death penalty is the mandatory punishment, as it is in our country for several offences, the clemency process becomes an urgent and critical final opportunity for a meaningful review of the circumstances of the case and of the offender, which at the moment cannot be weighed by judges at sentencing.”

Citing the case of former death row inmate Shahrul Izani Suparman for possession of cannabis, Shamini said the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah saw that Shahrul had fully repented and spared his life.

The pardons process, she added, must be a meaningful opportunity to review a case, and where the “diyat” pardon is available, it should be supplemented by a separate public system for seeking an official pardon or commutation.

Shamini also said death-row inmates from poorer backgrounds may be at a disadvantage to give their victims the compensation requested and this would strengthen the perception that the death penalty is a “lethal lottery” for certain sections of society.

Meanwhile, lawyer Faiz Fadzil said the proposal was good but required amendments to the relevant laws as the power to pardon was in the hands of a sultan or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of a state’s pardons board.

He added what was crucial was that the process must be transparent and the families of victims aren’t pressured by anyone to accept compensation.

Faiz said if a death-row inmate couldn’t afford the compensation, it would fall on the inmate’s family to pay.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Regent of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, said the Pahang Pardons Board plans to adopt the Islamic law of “diyat” as an alternative to granting pardon to convicts awaiting the death sentence.