Unfair trials, torture in death penalty cases, says Amnesty in new report

Amnesty International has urged the government to honour its pledge to abolish the death penalty.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police sometimes use torture to extract confessions from suspects in death penalty cases and their trials are often unfair, said Amnesty International, piling pressure on the government to abolish capital punishment.

In a new report, Amnesty said that torture and beatings were sometimes used to force confessions from suspects accused of offences punishable by death.

A man on death row, who was arrested in possession of methamphetamine in 2005, said police broke his finger during interrogation and he was forced to sign an inaccurate statement, according to Amnesty.

It was common for defendants who could not afford a lawyer to go without any legal assistance until charges were brought in court, and they were often left without legal support for long periods, the rights group said.

“From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it’s clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia’s criminal justice system,” said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia.

“Amnesty International’s research shows why this government must now honour its pledge to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment without delay.”

The death penalty is mandatory for several offences, including murder and drug trafficking.

Pakatan Harapan has pledged to scrap capital punishment entirely, a move that would have handed a reprieve to almost 1,300 people on death row.

But it was later announced that only the mandatory death penalty for some offences would go, leaving it to judges in such cases to decide whether to order someone to hang or jail them.

A moratorium on executions has been in place since last year, shortly after the change of government.

Amendments to laws are expected to be tabled in Parliament soon.

Amnesty urged the government to take the first step towards total abolition by eliminating the mandatory death penalty entirely, including for drug-related offences, when it puts forward the new legislation.

It said 73% of those on death row were convicted of drug crimes.

The minister in charge of law did not have an immediate response to the report.