‘Ensure convict rehabilitation’
Friday, 12 October 2018

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: While lauding the move to end the death penalty, lawyers want more efforts to rehabilitate and re-educate offenders.

Criminal lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said it was timely for the government to abolish the penalty.

“There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a prison term. And there is no humane way to execute this sentence,” he said.

He said the risk of executing innocent people existed in any justice system.

“No matter how developed a justice system is, it will remain susceptible to human failure,” he said.

Amer, who has been an advocate of abolishing the death penalty since the start of his law career in 1999, currently has seven clients on death row since 2013.

“They’ve been convicted for murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking,” he said.

He said while the justice system upheld public interest, the underlying principle of sentencing should be rehabilitation, not retribution.

“As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the world blind.

“Absolute judgments may sometimes lead to people paying for crimes they did not commit.

Lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan, who has 12 clients on death row, said in some cases, the death penalty was seen as an easy way out.

“In my 26 years, many of my clients tell me they would rather die than languish in prison for life.

“For some, 30 years is worse, especially if the offender is young.

“A life in prison can be the cruellest form of punishment. It should be removed from our statute.

“There must be an effort to rehabilitate offenders so that they can come back to society,” he said.

Senior lawyer Kitson Foong said as a criminal law practitioner, he urged for the abolition to be retrospective in effect.

“This is to account for hundreds of lives languishing on death row.

“The Attorney General’s office, together with relevant stakeholders, must ensure the availability of sufficient prison infrastructure to accommodate the increased numbers of inmates,” he said.

Foong said since retaliation as a purpose of sentencing was to be removed, authorities must ensure that proper and effective measures of rehabilitation and reformation for offenders were in place.

He said without these measures, the abolition might backfire as statistics proved that offenders who found themselves incapable of reconciling with society after prison release tended to re-offend.

Lawyer Datuk Roger Tan said he was only agreeable to abolishing the mandatory death sentence so that judges were given a discretion to impose life imprisonment in lieu of the penalty.

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