There are more Nigerians than other nationals on death row in Malaysia, Amnesty International said in a new report Monday.
Of the 568 foreign nationals on death row for various offences in Malaysia, 119 are Nigerians, the report said.
In all, some 1,281 people are on death row in the Southeast Asian country, held across 26 detention facilities as of February 22, 2019. That figure includes Malaysians.
In Malaysia, 33 offences are punishable by death.
Most people were sentenced to death for drug-related crimes and murder, the report revealed.
Other offences include use of firearms, robbery and waging war against the king or ruler of a state.
Nigeria tops the list of foreign nationals with 21%, followed by Indonesia (16%), Iran (15%), India (10%), Philippines (8%) and Thailand (6%).
Reports have shown many Nigerians are held on death rows in many countries. In April, 23 Nigerians were placed on death row in Saudi Arabia.
It is not clear whether the Nigerian government has responded to the new data in Malaysia. Calls to the Foreign Affairs ministry in Abuja did not go through on Monday.
Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Criminal Procedure Code guarantee the right of a person and the relative of such person to be informed, within 24 hours, of the grounds of their arrest as well as the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of their choice.
Amnesty said representatives of legal aid schemes whom it spoke with expressed no concern about the timeliness of the notification of arrest which was received from law enforcement agencies.
“However, they mentioned concerns related to practical issues, such as the receipt of the fax or email notifications after office hours which would not be acted on until the following day; and the low availability of lawyers when the notification comes in,” the group said.
Amnesty International said family members of defendants said their relatives saw lawyers when they were charged at the Magistrate Court, days after their arrest.
“Similarly, representatives of foreign embassies indicated that they usually get the notification of arrest of their own nationals with a time gap of more than 24 hours or even days.
“Amnesty International was also told by representatives of foreign embassies that in several cases involving foreign nationals, the Malaysian authorities had failed to correctly identify or verify the identity and nationality of the defendants, with the result that those defendants were not able to exercise their right to seek assistance from the consular authorities of their states of origin at the time of arrest,” the report added.
The report further added that foreign nationals who are far from their relatives and have little or no support from their embassies are at a disadvantage to file pardon petitions.
Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of Amnesty International, Malaysia, faulted the use of death penalties by Malaysian authorities.
He called on the authorities to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes while also reviewing all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the sentences.
“Our research found a pattern of unfair trials and secretive hangings that itself spoke volumes. From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it’s clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia’s criminal justice system.
“Malaysia has a golden chance to break with decades of cruelty and injustice, disproportionately inflicted on some of the most marginalised,” Mr Kaliemuthu wrote.