EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 28/12/97
EXTRA 152/97 Fear of imminent execution 4 November 1997
MALAYSIAWong Chee Leong, lorry attendant, aged 25
Zainuzzaman Mohamad Jasadi, aged 29
Wong Chee Leong is facing imminent execution following the rejection of his
appeal against his death sentence by the Federal Court in the capital, Kuala
Lumpur, on 2 October 1997. He was sentenced to death in August 1992 for drug
trafficking after being found in possession of a mixture of heroin and
monoacetylmorphine weighing 49.99 grams
Zainuzzaman Mohamad Jasadi is also facing imminent execution following the
rejection of his appeal against the death sentence by the Federal Court on
30 September 1997. He was sentenced to death in August 1992 for the killing
of 12-year-old Intan Yusniza Mohamad Yunos.
The only hope for commutation of their sentences now lies with the Yang
di-Pertuan Agong (the King of Malaysia and Supreme Head of State).
Since the beginning of the year there has been a series of confirmations of
death sentences in Malaysia. Amnesty International believes that at least
11 other prisoners are currently at risk of imminent execution following the
rejection of their appeals against their death sentences.
Until recently Amnesty International was unaware of the true number of
executions in Malaysia as official statistics were not made public. However,
the authorities revealed last year that between 1970 and March 1996, a total
of 349 people were executed. Since 1993 Amnesty International has recorded
at least 50 new death sentences though the real figure may be higher. According
to the government, the number of people under sentence of death in July 1996
was 245. Execution is by hanging.
The death penalty is mandatory in Malaysia for murder, certain firearms offences
and trafficking in a number of specified drugs.
According to the Dangerous Drugs Act, any person found in possession of at
least 15 grams of heroin, 1,000 grams of opium or 200 grams of cannabis is
presumed, unless the contrary can be proven, to be trafficking the drug.
Amnesty International has criticized the Dangerous Drugs Act because it places
the onus on the accused to prove their innocence, rather than on the state
to prove their guilt. This contravenes a basic principle of Malaysian
jurisprudence, as well as international legal safeguards, which stipulate that
the accused has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The death penalty is an inherently unjust and arbitrary punishment however
heinous the crime for which it is passed down. Studies have shown that it
is more likely to be imposed on those who are poorer and less educated than
average. The risk of error in applying the death penalty is inescapable, yet
it is irrevocable. Furthermore, there is no convincing evidence that the death
penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.