EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 28/05/96
UA 57/96 Fear of imminent execution 1 March 1996
MALAYSIAMohamed Yusof Said, aged 33, labourer
Mohamed Yusof Said, sentenced to death in January 1992 for trafficking 1.3
kilograms of cannabis, is facing imminent execution. Amnesty International
has just learned that the Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur rejected his appeal
on 9 February 1996. His only hope for commutation now lies with the Yang
di-Pertuan Agong (the King of Malaysia and Supreme Head of State).
Over 150 people are believed to have been executed for drug offences in recent
years, but, given the lack of official statistics, the exact figures are not
known. At least three prisoners have been executed for drug trafficking since
the beginning of 1996.
Under Malaysia's strict anti-drug laws the death penalty is mandatory for
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 proved,
to be trafficking in 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.
Despite the anti-drug laws, the authorities have conceded that the number of
addicts continues to grow. While Amnesty International recognizes the need
to combat increasing drug abuse, there is no convincing evidence that the death
penalty deters would-be traffickers more effectively than other punishments.
Furthermore, there is always a risk that minor traffickers or even drug abusers
will be executed, while those behind the crimes evade arrest and punishment.
The death penalty is also mandatory in Malaysia for murder and certain firearms
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate
form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the most
fundamental of human rights - the right to life. The death penalty is inherently
unjust and arbitrary, however heinous the crime for which it is provided.
It is often imposed on those with fewer resources available for their defence,
or whose social status has made them vulnerable to unfair conviction. The
risk of error in applying the death penalty is inescapable, yet the penalty
is irrevocable. Moreover, studies have overwhelmingly concluded that there
is no reliable evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- urging the King to commute the sentence passed on Mohamed Yusof Said;
- expressing unconditional opposition to the death penalty as a violation
of the most fundamental of human rights - the right to life;
- calling for all other death sentences to be commuted;