Joint Statement: Call for Asian Countries to End the Death Penalty and Respect the Right to Life

(Bangkok, 10 October 2018) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and 28 civil society organisations in Asia condemn the recent imposition of the death penalty by the Singaporean authorities on Abdul Wahid Bin Ismail, Mohsen Bin Na’im, and Zainudin bin Mohamed. All three were convicted of drug-related offences and were executed on 5 October 2018. As a network of human rights organisations, FORUM-ASIA sees the death penalty as a grave violation of the right to life – the most fundamental and essential human right for other rights to be realised. It serves no purpose to the State and its people in their pursuit of justice. We therefore call on the Government of Singapore, and other Governments in Asia that retain the death penalty to immediately impose a moratorium to the death penalty, as the first step towards its abolition.

The use of the death penalty has seen a global decline in recent years, signifying a movement towards more effective ways of deterring crimes.[1] Despite this global trend, several Governments in Asia continue to use the death penalty. Just this year, India expanded the scope of crimes covered by the death penalty. The numbers of those sentenced to capital punishment in Bangladesh yearly remains unabated. The region has also seen an increased tendency to use the death penalty for drug-related offences. Indonesia has been executing primarily those convicted of drug trafficking in recent years. It is estimated that China executes hundreds to thousands yearly for drug trafficking or murder, although exact figures are hard to find. The Sri Lankan Cabinet recently approved the President’s proposal to take steps towards implementing the capital punishment to those sentenced to death for drug offences and who continue to operate ‘drug rackets’ while in prison. In the Philippines, several State officials continue to push for the revival of the death penalty, despite having previously committed itself to its abolition.

Governments continue to retain the death penalty despite troubling concerns. There is no convincing evidence to support that the death penalty deters crime. In Mongolia, the death penalty was abolished after it was recognised that the threat of execution did not have a deterrent effect.[2]  Arguments for its use are based more on public opinion rather than on solid scientific evidence. The effect of the death penalty disproportionately affects those who are often the poor and the most marginalised, as they have limited access to resource and power. Judicial systems worldwide are all susceptible to abuse. In Vietnam, the cases of Ho Duy Hai and Le Van Manh, who were sentenced to death despite gaps in evidence and allegations of police impunity, cast strong doubts on the credibility of the judicial system. Capital punishment is irreversible; it violates the right to life and the right to live free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment – fundamental rights of all human beings. It goes against our goals of promoting rehabilitation for the convicted, and the values and standards of universal human rights we all stand for.

On the World Day against the Death Penalty, we express our grave concern on the continuing use of the death penalty in Asia. We call on all Governments to work for the abolition of the death penalty and to create a justice system that can respect human rights for all, including the perpetrators and the victims.  Only when we respect the right to life and dignity of all can we move towards a global humane society.

The statement is endorsed by:

  1. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
  2. Bytes for All, Pakistan
  3. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
  4. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence – Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS), Indonesia
  5. Community Resource Centre, Thailand
  6. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepal
  7. Equality Myanmar, Myanmar
  8. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan
  9. Human Rights Alert, India
  10. INFORM, Sri Lanka
  11. Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka
  12. National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace
  13. Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), Bangladesh
  14. Maldivian Democracy Network, the Maldives
  15. National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, Pakistan
  16. Odhikar, Bangladesh
  17. People’s Watch, India
  18. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea
  19. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India
  20. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), the Philippines
  21. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  22. South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India
  23. Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia
  24. Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Taiwan
  25. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), the Philippines
  26. Think Centre, Singapore
  27. Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Vietnam
  28. Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia/ Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBH), Indonesia


[2]  ews/2015/12/mongolia-historic-vote-abolishes-death-penalty/