Whipping for Corruption Has No Place in Modern Criminal Justice System
Press Statement 3 October 2018
The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) is shocked to learn about the proposal to introduce mandatory whipping by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for individuals convicted of corruption. We would like to also register our disappointment that our partner, Transparency International-Malaysia has also backed this call which is an affront to human rights. While we acknowledge the gravity of corruption and the negative impacts it has on society, there are other effective, holistic, and transformative ways that can be utilised to stamp out corruption.
We would like to emphasise that corporal punishment which includes whipping has no place in a modern criminal justice system. It is important to note that Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have condemned whipping as cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment and contrary to international human rights law.
In addition, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has called for the abolition of corporal punishment. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has also averred that corporal punishment is inconsistent with the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment. It is noteworthy that the Prime Minister in his speech at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly last week pledged to ratify all remaining core human rights conventions which include the Convention Against Torture.
We note that the reason for calling for harsher punishment to be imposed on corrupt offenders is that the punishment can act as a deterrent. This justification is however extremely flawed and unsubstantiated as a study conducted by David S. Lee of Columbia University and Justin McCrary of Michigan University demonstrates that the threat of increased penalties does not seem to change criminal behaviour.
In light of the foregoing, we propose that the government, in line with its international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) take all necessary steps to address the root causes of corruption by ensuring the authorities charged with fighting corruption are independent, well-funded, trained and equipped to discharge their duties. Effective enforcement which includes diligent investigations, timely arrests of suspects and effective prosecution is key to combating corruption.
Longer prison time can also be taken into account to punish corrupt offenders. On top of prison sentence, other punitive measures such as discharge, suspension of allowances and increments, and demotion can also be introduced to be imposed on members of civil service found guilty of corruption.
Apart from enforcement, the government also has an obligation under UNCAC to develop preventive measures aimed at combatting corruption as a form of public education and public awareness-raising. The government should implement effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society in order to uphold the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability. This move will go a long way in stamping out corruption.
C4 Center’s opposition to whipping does not mean that corrupt offenders should escape the criminal justice system. Using a holistic approach to combatting corruption would be more effective in ensuring that the root causes are eliminated and human rights, in this case the right to life of everyone, including the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is guaranteed.
Cynthia Gabriel & Fadiah Nadwa Fikri