Amnesty International denounces 'shocking' Malaysian executions

One of the executed inmates Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu (above), whose family members were told of his impending execution just a day before he was put to death on Friday morning (March 25).
One of the executed inmates Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu (above), whose family members were told of his impending execution just a day before he was put to death on Friday morning (March 25). PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, The Star/Asia News Network) - Amnesty International said Malaysian authorities hanged three convicted murderers on Friday (March 25) despite calls for clemency from rights groups that called the executions "shocking and disturbing", as the country considers scrapping the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the family of one of the executed inmates slammed the authorities for informing them of the execution only a day in advance.

Malaysian and international organisations including the UN's human rights body had this week issued appeals for authorities to stay the expected execution of Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu.

Amnesty said two brothers, Ramesh Jayakumar and Sasivarnam Jayakumar, also had been hanged on Friday.

AFP was not able to confirm the hangings. Malaysia does not publicly announce executions and otherwise closely guards information on its application of the death penalty.

Malaysian officials have indicated in recent years that the government may review its use of capital punishment, but no progress is known to have been made.

"The fact that these state killings come at a time when the Malaysian government is actively discussing abolition of the mandatory death penalty makes them all the more shocking and disturbing," Amnesty International's Southeast Asia campaigns director Josef Benedict said in a statement.

"These hangings are a sickening reminder that the Malaysian authorities must redouble their efforts to establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty."

Gunasegar was sentenced to death for his role in the murder of B. Venukumar, then 24, during a gang fight on April 4, 2005.
 
His sister, P. Joty, said Gunasegar maintained his claim of innocence, telling her "only God knows what happened, but it's bye bye for me". 
 
P. Joty, 30, said the family rushed to see her brother on Thursday, after they received a letter which stated he would be executed "soon".
 
The letter from the Taiping Prison Department gave no date for execution, though it advised them to make arrangements to claim the body for a funeral.
 
A source from the Malaysian Bar confirmed seeing the letter, saying that it was dated earlier but apparently received only on Wednesday. 
 
When 25 family members visited Gunasegar in Taiping prison, they were given the bombshell news that he would be hung at dawn on Friday. 
 
"Me and my mother visited him last week. They told us nothing," said Joty, sobbing in a phone interview. 
 
One of nine siblings, she had delayed her wedding to stay close to her brother at the Pokok Sena prison, in Kedah, where death row inmates are kept before being transferred to Taiping for execution. 
 
She said the immediate family was given an hour to see him, while the rest had around 40 minutes per group of 10 people. 
 
The Southeast Asia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Thursday also had urged a stay of Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu's execution, adding that it was "concerned by Malaysia's practice of carrying out executions in secret".

Around 900 people were on death row in Malaysia, officials have said in recent years, mostly drug offenders.

Since 1960, nearly 450 people have been executed, according to data released in 2011, but activists say they have been extremely rare in recent years.

In 2014, authorities halted plans to execute a Malaysian convicted murderer, Chandran Paskaran, after an outcry from rights groups.