Nigeria currently has the highest number of foreigners who have been sentenced to death in Malaysia.
A new report by Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, has revealed that 119 Nigerians are currently on death row in Malaysia.
The death penalty is currently retained as the punishment for 33 offences in the Asian country and is mandatory for 12 of these, according to the report, “Fatally flawed: Why Malaysia must abolish the death penalty”.
As of February 2019, Amnesty reported, a total of 1,281 people were on death row in Malaysia, including 568 (44%) foreign nationals.
Of these foreign nationals, 21% are Nigerians, with others from Indonesia (16%), Iran (15%), India (10%), Philippines (8%) and Thailand (6%) and other countries.
73% of the total 1,281 inmates on death row were convicted for drug trafficking, while 25% were convicted for murder. The remaining were convicted for offences related to the use of firearms, robbery, and waging war against the King or Ruler of a State.
Amnesty’s report showed that those on death row for drug trafficking were frequently convicted after they were found in possession of and transporting relatively small quantities of drugs without having committed or being involved in any form of violence.
They are also classified as people at the low-end of the drug chain (drug couriers) who often claim to have been tricked, lured, or forced into the drug trade.
In its report, Amnesty documented many violations of international human rights law and standards associated with the use of the death penalty in Malaysia.
“Our research found a pattern of unfair trials and secretive hangings that itself spoke volumes. 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.
In July 2018, the Malaysian government established a moratorium on executions, a temporary prohibition that means the convicts won’t have their sentences carried out.
Even though the government previously committed to a full abolition of the death penalty, it is expected to soon table legislation in the Malaysian Parliament that’ll remove the mandatory death penalty for only 11 offences.
Amnesty called on the government to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes and review all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the sentences.
“Malaysia has a golden chance to break with decades of cruelty and injustice, disproportionately inflicted on some of the most marginalised,” said Kaliemuthu.