Sunday, December 12, 2010

Human rights advocates decry Malaysia's caning punishment as torture

In Malaysia, more than 60 offenses, including illegal immigration, are punishable by a harsh caning. Though a doctor is made available to those who are bound to a cross and struck in the bare buttocks by an officer wielding a long cane like a bat, some of those who have received the cane wonder why. Rawi, an Indonesian migrant caned earlier this year, told the human rights group Amnesty International that "the doctor asked me if I had a passport. I said, 'Yes, but not with me.' The doctor then smiled. The doctor smiled at me in a mocking way. This made me feel pain in my heart.”
That physicians are helping to facilitate what Amnesty alleges is a growing trend in caning "makes them complicit in this human rights violation." "This is in violation not only of international human rights law in general, but also of internationally recognized codes of medical ethics," Amnesty said in a report released today, calling on the Malaysian government to immediately halt the canings that are carried out on thousands of criminals each year, leaving not only physical scars, but deep psychological wounds.
Compounding problems are new strict immigration rules in Malaysia that have left tens of thousands of refugees and migrant workers on the wrong side of the law.
The practice dates to the 1800s, when Malaysia was a British colony. According to Amnesty, a cane may rip open a person's skin, damaging muscle fibers. "The pain is so severe that victims often lose consciousness."
Amnesty points out that corporal punishment for prisoners is banned under international law. As such, Malaysian officials and employees could be open to prosecution for torture crimes. However, the country has not ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the optional protocol, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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