The Arokiasamy Murder Case is the first death penalty case the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) decided to fund, supporting lawyers to represent Mr. Ariokiasamy A/L Alphonso (AA). It tells the story of a man, Arokiasamy (AA) who is currently on death row for killing his sister-in-law. He was convicted under the Malaysian Penal Code Section 302. This is an unfortunate case. Herein, this article will discuss whether the death penalty can bring justice and why MCCHR decided to take on this case.
We begin by considering the justification behind employing the death penalty in Malaysia. Dhillon, Mohammad, and Ng (2012) found two common arguments. First, the death penalty serves as retribution over the loss of life. The pain of losing someone close incites anger and even hatred. How do we address this fairly to the victim and those in grief? For friends and family, it could be in terms of “an eye for an eye”, or more importantly, the life of the offender in exchange for murdering a loved one. Second, the fear of death should deter criminalized actions. The legal system wants to enforce acceptable standards of behavior and maintain order. You won’t kill someone knowing the law will kill you, and that’s ‘good’ for society. In the context of the Ariokiasamy case, AA’s life is retribution for his sister-in-law and by setting this case as precedence, the act of murder should decrease. However, with further research, these two arguments fall short in the application. The legal system in Malaysia should have efficient and effective measures to bring justice to those suffering from the loss of their loved one’s life. However, many of them feel victimized not just by the criminal, but also by the system itself (Miranda, Molina, & MacVane, 2010). The slow and arduous process of legal proceedings in Malaysia on death penalty cases can result in the long duration of cases, extending usually 10 or even 20 years long (Pascoe, 2014). The emotional burden the loved ones carry throughout this process is high, tiring and stressful (Miranda et al., 2010). Is this fair to them? In terms of the second argument, research is mixed on the death penalty and its effectiveness for deterrence (see Dhillon et al., 2012 for an overview). Overall, Malaysia’s death penalty, practically speaking, is not effective at bringing justice as it commonly posits. If it is a grey area, why should the death penalty be employed?
Indeed, the issues above and others discussed here are reasons for challenging the death penalty for Ariokiasamy’s case; that is to consider other ways to deal with this offense. One perspective is to reflect upon international and national standards Malaysia is accountable to, which in many instances were violated in the Ariokiasamy’s Case. This includes Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR; UN General Assembly, 1948), pertaining to the right to life and liberty and Article 5(1) of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, which protects a persons’ life and personal liberty from being deprived. AA, as a person, has the human right to live and no one can take that away from him (Mokhtar, Khairil Azmin, 2012). Executing the death penalty violates these rights granted to him. In addition, the death penalty violates his right to freedom from torture, as provided in Article 5 of the UDHR. To be tortured is to endure suffering, which may come in the forms of excruciating physical and/or mental pain. Often times, torture comes hand in hand with the lack of accountability in the government’s actions, which further exacerbates the suffering endured by these subjects of torture (Mokhtar, Khairil Azmin, 2012). As AA sits on death row, he suffers from the 20 years of imprisonment, rife with uncertainty about his future both far and near, and further tormented by the weight of the anguish and guilt he has brought upon his family. He suffers, in knowing that why’s and how’s are now certain, but not when. Indeed, the Malaysian government has the tendency of making impetuous decisions as to when someone will be executed, leaving little time to come to terms with death, for both the convicts themselves and their loved ones (“Fatally flawed..,” 2019). Add that with the constant worries now summed over decades, AA and other death penalty convicts have been at least tortured psychologically, agonizing their own uncertain fate for what we hope won’t be for the rest of their lives.
In conclusion, the Ariokiasamy case shows that the death penalty does not bring justice. Indeed, MCCHR has decided to assist in challenging the death penalty not only because of its ineffectiveness but also its unwarranted encroachments on an individual’s human rights. It is hoped that this article will not only act as a reference to this death penalty case which has lacked reporting in the media but to also inform the readers on the practical sides of the arguments for and against capital punishment.
Dhillon, G., Mohammad, N., & Miin, N. Y. (2012). Capital punishment in Malaysia & globally: A tool for justice or a weapon against humanity. Legal Network Series, 1-23.
Miranda, A. O., Molina, B., & MacVane, S. L. (2003). Coping with the murder of a loved one: Counseling survivors of murder victims in groups. Journal for specialists in group work, 28(1), 48-63.
Mokhtar, K. A (2012) The right to life and freedom from torture. In: Human Rights Law : International, Malaysian and Islamic Perspectives. Sweet & Maxwell Asia, Petaling Jaya, pp. 57-86.
Pascoe, D. (2014). Clemency in Southeast Asian death penalty cases. Centre for Indonesian Law Islam and Society Policy Paper Series 4, 1-32.
UN General Assembly. (1948). Universal declaration of human rights (217 [III] A). Paris.
Fatally flawed: Why Malaysia must abolish the death penalty (2019) Amnesty International. Available at https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ACT5010782019ENGLISH.pdf