In some states in the USA, there’s no escaping a death penalty once all avenues of appeal have been exhausted, even when some death row inmates spent more than 20 years waiting for the last walk. Apparently several prisoners were executed when they were already in their 80s.
We may well ask – has justice been served? And, was it meant to be served in this way, executing 80-year old people?
There has been a debate in the USA and Britain on the length of time convicts should spend on death row. In 1993, a British court found that it was inhuman and degrading to hang anyone who has spent more than five years waiting for their execution. It argued that such prisoners should have their sentences commuted to life in prison.
It’s the only sensible and humane option for a civilised society. But better still, don’t have the penalty, as our neighbour the Philippines has decided.
In Malaysia we too have what are now known as the forgotten convicts - prisoners who received their death sentence, exhausted all appeal options, and have spent more than two decades on death row.
It’s just a horrible punishment.
Among this group is a man who has been waiting for his final moment for 22 years, since he was 26 years old. Nearly a decade has passed by for him in a cell, waiting, waiting, waiting ……..
The authorities have refused, as Malaysian authorities would and could, to explain why those prisoners are left in such horrendous limbo. However, the New Straits Times has learnt that a combination of administrative hitches and delays in handing down written court judgements have kept these criminals in solitary confinement for years. So our august judiciary has thus contributed to the prolonged inhumane mental torture for those hapless souls.
Suhakam, after its reputation has recently suffered terrible disrepute in refusing to investigate police brutality, has indicated its concerns that these death row prisoners — convicted of murder, drug trafficking and firearm possession offences — are receiving two distinct punishments: the death sentence and years of living in solitary confinement.
It also wants to know whether executing someone after prolonged periods on death row violates the Constitution and the principles of justice.
Next year is Malaysia’s 50th Anniversary as a nation. Please let us celebrate this occasion by demonstrating our humanity and compassion as a civilised nation, and commute their death sentences, as we have seen done for a former UMNO bigwig who was sentenced to death for murder.
In fact, let’s take it one further step – let’s abolish the ultimate punishment, which as you religious people know, is and should be the sole prerogative of God.
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