Updated: 02/07/2014 03:16 | By Agence France-Presse

Rights groups urge Malaysia to stop 'secretive execution'

Rights groups urged Malaysia on Thursday to halt the planned hanging of a condemned man, with Amnesty International calling it "yet another secretive execution".

Rights groups urge Malaysia to stop 'secretive execution'

A general view of Kuala Lumpur skyline on June 27, 2013 - by Mohd Rasfan

The London-based human rights group said in a statement it had learnt that the man, Chandran Paskaran, would be executed Friday for a murder committed more than a decade ago.

The government of Muslim-majority Malaysia does not announce executions and is generally tight-lipped about its application of the death penalty.

"Malaysian authorities must immediately halt plans to carry out yet another secretive execution," Amnesty said in a statement.

The statement quoted Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty's Malaysia researcher, as saying the execution would be "an enormous step backwards on human rights".

Joining Amnesty's call were New York-based Human Rights Watch, the Malaysian Bar Council and HINDRAF, a group that advocates for the rights of Malaysia's ethnic Indian minority.

Government officials did not immediately respond to AFP queries.

According to a court judgement, seen by AFP, Chandran was found guilty of being slashing another man to death in 2003 in a fight in southern Johor state.

A lower court sentenced him to death in 2008 -- a verdict which was upheld on appeal. 

A Malaysian government official said in 2012 that about 900 people were on death row, mostly for drug offences. 

However, Malaysia is believed to have carried out few executions -- which are done by hanging -- in recent years.

In 2012 a government minister said it may reconsider a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking, but nothing further has been announced. 

"Prime Minister Najib should follow through now to stop this execution, while that government policy review of the use of capital punishment is ongoing," said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

Galang-Folli of Amnesty said authorities were "undoing any positive steps taken, including the announcement of the legal review of mandatory death sentences". 

"For Malaysia to try to carry out executions in near-total secrecy is shameful -– the government is essentially trying to hide its human rights violations from the world," she said.

Between 1960 and 2011, nearly 450 people were executed, according to data released in 2011.

Two Australians were put to death in 1986 for heroin trafficking -- the first Westerners to be hanged.

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