Clemency in Southeast Asian Death Penalty Cases

The five contemporary practitioners of the death penalty in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam) have performed judicial executions on a regular basis between 1975 and 2013. Notwithstanding this similarity, the number of death sentences passed by courts that were subsequently reduced to a term of imprisonment through grants of clemency by the executive has varied remarkably between these jurisdictions. Some of these countries commuted the sentences of death row prisoners often (for example, the clemency ‘rate’ of 91-92 per cent witnessed in Thailand), others rarely (a clemency ‘rate’ of around 1 per cent in Singapore), and some at ‘medium’ rates. In this article, I employ the methodology of comparative criminal justice to explore the discrepancies and similarities in capital clemency practice between these five Southeast Asian jurisdictions. In doing so, I seek to identify the structural and cultural reasons why retentionist countries exercise clemency at vastly different ‘rates’ in finalised capital cases.

Daniel Pascoe completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Law at the University of Oxford in October 2013, after previous degrees in Law, Asian Studies (Indonesian) and Criminology/Criminal Justice. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the School of Law, City University of Hong Kong, where he teaches in the Juris Doctor programme.