Public caning will become a spectacle, NGO warns Kelantan

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KUALA LUMPUR: Saying caning has no place in “this day and age”, Lawyers for Liberty has urged the Kelantan state government to reconsider its approach to shariah offences.

It should not just look at deterrence, but should instead value universal and Islamic concepts such as human rights, justice and mercy when sentencing offenders, the NGO’s executive director Eric Paulsen said.

He said Lawyers for Liberty viewed “with extreme concern” the amendments to the Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2002 that allowed for caning to be carried out in public for shariah offences such as zina, false accusation of zina, sodomy and alcohol consumption.

Previously, caning could only be done in prisons.

“Caning should certainly not be carried out in public as it will then become a spectacle that will attract the press and large cheering crowds (for example in Aceh), where people can photograph and video the event, thus aggravating the punishment and humiliation.

“Is this the sort of behaviour the Kelantan government wishes to inculcate among its people – for them to cheer, revel, broadcast and increase the public humiliation of others?” he asked.

He added that although caning as a form of punishment is not illegal under Malaysian law, “caning done in public, with the aggravated effects of public humiliation and exposure to the press, crowd and sharing on social media can be unconstitutional, infringing Article 5, Right to Life and Article 8, Equality under the Federal Constitution”.

He said that although not explicitly stated, the constitution prohibited cruel, unusual or excessive forms of punishment as a violation to the right to life.

He said public caning also infringed the right to equality as only Muslims would be subjected to such punishment.

“In the absence of a fair and just criminal justice system and access to competent legal representation, such harsh punishment will disproportionately affect women, the poorer and lower classes, and risk the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

“Needless to say, caning is irreversible and cannot be remedied.”

Paulsen added that caning, especially public caning, had no place in a civilised society.