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Asian regional congress on the death penalty aims to strengthen call for regional abolition

Kuala Lumpur, 4th of June 2015 – Anti-death penalty advocates from around the globe will congregate in Malaysia on June 11 and 12 to discuss the foremost violation of the right to life.

The Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty, co-organised by Ensemble contre la peine de mort (Together Against the Death Penalty, ECPM) and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an effort to encourage countries in Asia to move with the global trend and join the rest of the world in abolishing the death penalty.

ECPM, an organisation based in Paris, said Asia’s civil society commitment to abolition of the death penalty had increased in recent times, hence Kuala Lumpur as the host for the first Asian congress.

“The Malaysian abolitionist movement which includes ADPAN, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Bar Council of Malaysia has in recent years strengthened its call against the death penalty. The cooperation of these organisations would reinforce and empower the existing Asian abolitionist movement, making it more visible at the global level,” it said.

Asia is the world’s biggest user of the death penalty, however, the overall number of executions has decreased, governments have imposed more rigorous restrictions to limit the use of the death penalty and a more open debate has been launched.

In 10 years, five countries in the region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes – Nepal in 1997, Bhutan in 2004, the Philippines and Cambodia in 2006, and Mongolia in 2012,” ECPM said.

Some 300 participants, including 100 from across the globe, are expected to attend the Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty at Renaissance Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

An aim of the regional congress is to encourage new forms of co- operation to lead to concrete commitments by Asian states to abolish the death penalty. The congress also aims to support civil society actors in the region by defining an abolition strategy which will chart progress, obstacles and outlook. 

ADPAN Executive Committee Member Ngeow Chow Ying said that the network was concerned with the recent spate of executions in South East Asia, in particular, in Indonesia.

“The conference is therefore a timely event to focus on the use of the death penalty in the region and sub-region. Our goal is to raise awareness and encourage debates on death penalty issues. We urge both pro and anti-death penalty advocates to take part in crucial debates about the death penalty,” she said.

The Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty will present regional ideas as a lead-up to the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, in June, next year.

Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni said that with the apparent global trend of abolition, retentionist countries needed to ask themselves whether “they were getting in the way of human rights progress by executing people in the cruellest of ways.”

“In Malaysia, the death penalty remains a contentious subject for both moral and political reasons, like in many other countries. We need to continue pushing Asian governments which retain the death penalty to do away with this ultimate abomination of human rights. The congress takes a hard look at the use of the death penalty and raises those tough questions on why governments are insisting on using the death penalty when it has been proven an ineffective solution to crime reduction,” she said.

Shamini added that AI Malaysia, as a member of ADPAN, was pleased to be among the event’s organisers.

Regional Congress Coordinator Yi Pan said that given the nature of crimes that carry the death penalty in the region, discussions would be devoted to death penalty and drugs, with input from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and experts on criminal justice and capital punishment.

“The mandatory death penalty is also a major regional issue. UK- based organisation the Death Penalty Project, which has worked closely with several governments in Asia, will also share its observations,” she said.

In the wake of recent executions in the region, a roundtable discussion and a workshop would be dedicated to “Diplomacy and Death Penalty”, which would explore how diplomatic processes could be a useful tool in abolition, Yi Pan said. 

 

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