Prominent lawyer Ramkarpal Singh believes that the execution of an innocent person is bound to take place, so long as the death penalty exists.
The DAP lawmaker, who is against the death penalty, told FMT he believed it was not a matter of “if” but “when” such a travesty of justice would occur.
“This is our greatest fear, that a judge would err in his judgment and send an innocent person to the gallows,” he said, adding that this could happen as judges have erred in their judgments before.
As Malaysia does not practise the jury system, he said the life of a person facing the death sentence was in the hands of a judge.
“The death penalty is irreversible. Once a person is executed, that’s the end.
“At least with jail sentences, an innocent person can be released and be compensated,” the Bukit Gelugor MP said.
Amnesty International-Malaysia (AI-M) Executive Director Shamini Darshni shared the same sentiments.
“In an imperfect justice system – and no justice system is perfect – there is always a risk that an innocent person may be executed,” she said.
Sharmini added that international standards on the death penalty call for transparency in its use, including the availability of public information on its use, but this was not the case in Malaysia.
“The availability of public information on the use of the death penalty will allow for the consideration of important factors, such as the risk of wrongful execution, the unfairness of trials, and the extent to which capital punishment disproportionately affects defendants living in poverty and people with mental disabilities.
“Due to this lack of transparency in the application of the death penalty, there is always the possibility that Malaysia may have in the past executed an innocent person.
“It continues to stand the risk of doing so again if it goes on hanging people for various offences,” Sharmini said.
She added this was among the reasons why AI-M had repeatedly called for the abolition of the death penalty.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri had revealed that there were some 1,041 death row inmates as of May 16.