Death penalty: Wrongful convictions and unfair sentencing in Malaysia

Source: Asian Correspondent

Lawyers Chong and former HAKAM President Abdul Rashid Ismail speaking on death penalty at @freedomfilmfest in Kuala Lumpur. Source: @AmnestyMy. Taken from Asian Correspondent.

WHILE the death penalty in Malaysia is an issue that divides the nation and continues to be a hot topic in parliament, there is a group of people whose voices never enter the debate. They are the silent victims of this colonial-era law and the ones that pay the ultimate price for the errors of others – the wrongfully convicted.

Splitting public opinion pretty much down the middle, the death penalty in Malaysia is a hangover from British rule and is still the mandatory punishment for murder, drug trafficking, treason, and waging war against the King.

Last year, Malaysia executed nine people – up from one the previous year – and handed down 36 death sentences. In its latest report on the issue, rights group Amnesty International ranked Malaysia tenth in the use of the death penalty among 23 countries where executions were recorded. Read more

Kesilapan Yang Tidak Dapat Dielakkan – Abdul Rashid Ismail

Terbitan Istimewa HAKAM sempena sambutan Hari Hak Asasi Manusia 2015
#HAKAM-MMO Human Rights Day 2015 project



gallowsRamai yang telah lupa mengenai kes salah sabitan S. Karthigesu yang telah didakwa, dibicara dan didapati bersalah kerana membunuh Jean Perera Sinnappa yang berlaku di dalam tahun 1979. Karthigesu merupakan suspek tunggal pembunuhan tersebut.

Perbicaraan pembunuhan itu telah mengambil masa 38 hari. Saksi utama pendakwaan ialah Bhandulananda Jayatilake. Jayatilake telah memberi keterangan bahawa beliau telah menyaksikan Karthigesu menjerit bahawa Jean “tidak berhak untuk hidup”. Hakim perbicaraan menganggap kata-kata ini sebagai bukti yang menunjukkan beliau bersalah. Tiada sebarang bukti dijumpai untuk mengenal pasti secara langsung siapakah pembunuh di dalam kes ini. Senjata pembunuhan juga tidak pernah ditemui walaupun pihak polis telah cuba mencarinya dengan sedaya-upaya.

Karthigesu telah dijatuhkan hukuman mati mandatori oleh Hakim perbicaraan. Beliau telah merayu kepada Mahkamah Persekutuan terhadap sabitan dan hukuman mati yang dijatuhkan terhadapnya. Empat hari selepas sabitan Karthigesu, Jayatilake yang merupakan saksi utama pendakwaan telah tampil ke hadapan. Beliau telah membuat satu pengakuan bahawa dia telah bercakap bohong. Beliau tidak menyaksikan kononnya Karthigesu menjerit yang telah membuktikan Karthigesu bersalah. Menurut penghakiman Mahkamah, beliau telah diminta untuk berbohong bagi memastikan Karthigesu didapati bersalah. Read more

The Inevitability of Error – Abdul Rashid Ismail

EXCLUSIVE, published in collaboration with MMO
>> Read original article in Bahasa Malaysia 


The writer says the decision by the Government to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drugs offences is a clear recognition that the mandatory death regime does not act as a deterrent. — AFP pic

The writer says the decision by the Government to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drugs offences is a clear recognition that the mandatory death regime does not act as a deterrent. — AFP pic

OPINION, Dec 12 — Once a person has been executed by the state, it is irreversible. The occurrence of miscarriages of justice cannot be denied. It is inevitable that an innocent life may be taken away in a criminal justice system that is dependent on the integrity and honesty of those involved and vulnerable to human error.

Many have forgotten the wrongful conviction of S. Karthigesu who was charged, tried and convicted for the murder of Jean Perera Sinnappa which took place in 1979. Karthigesu was the only suspect. He was represented by R. Ponnudurai who was a well-respected criminal lawyer.

The murder trial took 38 days. The main prosecution witness was Bhandulananda Jayatilake. He testified that he witnessed Karthigesu exclaim that Jean “did not deserve to live”. The trial Judge regarded these words as an incriminating outburst. No evidence was ever found to directly identify the killer. The murder weapon was also never discovered despite an intensive search.

Karthigesu was given a mandatory death sentence by the trial Judge. He appealed to the Federal Court against his conviction and death sentence. Four days after Karthigesu’s conviction, Jayatilake who was the main prosecution witness came forward. He confessed that he had lied. He did not witness the alleged incriminating outburst implicating Karthigesu. According to the judgment of the Court, he had been asked to lie in order to secure Karthigesu’s conviction.

The Federal Court set aside Karthigesu’s conviction and mandatory death sentence. Jayatilake was then convicted of perjury and was sent to prison for 10 years.

Karthigesu was freed after having been on the death row for more than 2 years. He was indeed very lucky. Many others before and after him may have not been so lucky. Karthigesu was a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Read more