Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 21 May 2018

SUARAM has been calling for the abolition of the death penalty ever since we have existed. There is no better time for our country to abolish the death penalty than the present predicament we face in trying to extradite Sirul, one of the convicted murderers of Altantuya from Australia. Since the Australian government cannot bring itself to return someone to Malaysia where he will be facing the death penalty, the just and reasonable thing to do is to do away with the death penalty once and for all. In so doing, we can ensure that this other convicted killer of Altantuya faces justice in our country.

Need for a retrial in the Altantuya Case

In the case of the two convicted murderers of Altantuya, I don’t think full justice has been done to the Mongolian lass since the motive for the murder was never established by the court. If the death penalty is carried out, we will never know the full story of why they murdered the woman; whether she was connected with the purchase of the RM7 billion Scorpene submarines or if they were induced by people in power to murder her.

There have been too many inconsistencies in the Altantuya case, for example:

–        The assertion that all records of Altantuya’s entry and presence in Malaysia were erased from the computers of the Immigration Department – the Immigration Department needs to clarify this fact;

–        the sudden removal of the presiding judge before the trial started and the changing of the head of the prosecution team at the eleventh hour;

–        the fact that the defence lawyers for the three accused kept changing with one walking out on the first day of hearing, charging that “third parties” were interfering in his work;

–        when both defence lawyers and prosecutors cut off a witness (Altantuya’s cousin) from testifying further when she revealed that the victim had shown her a photograph of herself, Razak Baginda, Najib and “others” having lunch in a Paris restaurant.

No pardons for murderers please

Former policeman Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted of murdering Altantuya has said he is willing to reveal what happened in the case if he is given a full pardon to return to Malaysia.

SUARAM says, unless Sirul can prove that he was NOT one of Altantuya’s murderers, he should not be pardoned if justice is to be done for Altantuya. However, if he will spill the beans over the whole beastly affair including his claim to have killed others before the Altantuya murder and show genuine remorse, there might be the possibility of plea bargaining in exchange for a shorter sentence.

This is only possible if the death penalty is abolished in this country. Thus, at a stroke we will have become a more humanist society and we can keep alive the hope that justice will be done for Altantuya.

Death penalty – the most diabolical of murders

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits all forms of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Capital punishment for murder offences has been abolished in Britain since 1965. Today, most of Europe has abolished the death penalty. By the 1970s, capital punishment had been abolished as a statutory punishment in about one quarter of the world’s nations including Australia.

The judicial taking of life has been described as “the most pre-meditated and most diabolical of murders.” It is basically a relic of the primitive drive for revenge and it merely passes the responsibility to the judge or jury who are supposed to be acting on our behalf. It is indicative of the primordial psyche that we are not content that criminals be safely put away in prison, we demand their death!

Executions dehumanize society and undermine the common values upon which the full and free development of human society is based in all cultures. The value of human life is lessened once a state, in avowing the defence of its citizens, resorts to inhuman and degrading forms of punishment.

No Evidence that Capital Punishment Deters Crime

Perhaps the most popular misconception is that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to crime for there is little evidence to show this. According to the British Home Office Research Unit study undertaken in the eighties, over the previous decade the increase in murders in the various categories had been insignificant. This was despite the fact there was a war in Northern Ireland.

Another strong argument against capital punishment is that it entails irrevocable miscarriages of justice. In Britain, if the law on hanging had not changed in 1964, at least six men would have been hanged for offences they did not commit. The film “Hurricane” tells the story about the former US boxer Rubin Carter who spent more than twenty years in jail for a murder he did not commit. If he had been hanged soon after his conviction, his death would have been on the nation’s conscience forever!

This was accounted for by the fact that no legal system is infallible. Moreover, as in the case of Hurricane, miscarriages of justice usually take time to surface.



    The Treaty between the Government of Australia and the Government of Malaysia on Extradition (Putrajaya, 15 November 2005) and an Exchange of Notes between the Government of Australia and the Government of Malaysia on the Treaty on Extradition (Kuala Lumpur, 7 December 2005) (the Extradition Treaty with Malaysia) provides for the surrender of an accused or convicted person to the other Party to face criminal charges or serve a sentence.

    In Australia, Section 22(3)(c) of the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) (the Extradition Act) provides that an extradition request for an offence punishable by the death penalty will be refused unless the Requesting Country gives an undertaking that :

    the person will not be tried for the offence;
    if the person is tried for the offence, the death penalty will not be imposed on the person;
    if the death penalty is imposed on the person, it will not be carried out.

    The said Australian statutory provision has been provided in the Extradition Treaty with Malaysia vide Article 3 clause 2 which states the specific requirement for consultation before any request is made for extradition of a person to face an offence which carries capital punishment. This clause enables Australia and Malaysia to come to an agreement as to the terms and conditions on which the person will be extradited, if at all. That enables Australia either to get an undertaking from Malaysia in accordance with the terms of section 22 of the Extradition Act or, alternatively, allows Malaysia to consider whether it wishes to change the charges for which it will seek the extradition to charges which do not carry the death penalty.

    In short, Malaysia as the Requesting Country merely needs to give an undertaking that the death penalty already imposed upon the convicted Malaysian who is now an Australian detainee, will not be carried out and shall be replaced by a lifetime incarceration of penal imprisonment.

    The Requesting Party, Malaysia merely bears the expense of transportation and document translation whereas Australia, the Requested Party bears the expense of all other costs incurred in the Requested Party during extradition proceedings, such as through arrest and detention.

    The costs to be met by Australia will be met from the existing budgets of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

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