Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Malaysia: the practice of caning

Delivered in Plenary - 16th December 2010

Mr President

Malaysia has moved towards a more Islamic form of governance in recent years. This is of some concern because Malaysia could be an important ally for the EU, being a strategically placed democratic Asian country with a developed economy.

Sadly, Western concepts of human rights are less developed in Malaysia. However, I am unsure as to why we have singled out Malaysia here. Malaysia is a Muslim majority country and such punishments are commonplace in many Sharia law based countries, and are mandated by the Koran which serves as the ultimate legal authority for all Muslims.

Indeed, caning is a relatively mild punishment compared to some of the other extremely brutal methods of punishment used in some Muslim countries, including amputation, lapidation and beheading. Caning should also be seen in the Asian cultural context: for example, neighbouring secular Singapore also sentences criminals to caning, and the Indonesian province of Aceh, which receives a lot of EU aid, has recently introduced caning under its Sharia law policy.

In EU Member States, traditional implementation of corporal punishment is rightly banned, and let us hope that Malaysia one day will follow our enlightened example. But it is not at all clear in my mind that caning is illegal under international law, as stated in the resolution.