THE Malaysian Bar is heartened to note that the authorities have apparently decided not to proceed with the sentence of whipping in Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno‘s case.
As recently as at its 61st annual general meeting held on 17 March 2007, the Malaysian Bar resolved to denounce and reject whipping as a punishment for any offence as it is anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society.
Our position echoes international human rights norms that condemn whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhuman or degrading, and call for its abolition. Moreover, there is empirical evidence to support the fact that whipping has failed as a retributory and deterrent sentence.
In Kartika’s specific case, there are additional compelling reasons to overturn the sentence. There is serious doubt over the legality and propriety of the Kuantan Syariah High Court’s imposition of a supplementary sentence of imprisonment simply for the punishment of whipping to be carried out.
Under Malaysian civil law, the whipping of women is prohibited. The whipping of men in certain categories of age and health is also prohibited. The government has committed itself to prevent the whipping of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are positive first steps in the journey towards total prohibition against whipping as a form of punishment for all persons, regardless of age or gender, and whether under civil or syariah law.
We call on the authorities to overturn the sentence of whipping handed down in Kartika’s case and the cases of those who were arrested with her. We strongly urge the government to reject whipping as a form of sentencing for any offence, and to abolish it altogether.
24 Aug 2009
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