Good news: Death sentence of mentally ill prisoner commuted in Malaysia

Amnesty International has received information that the King of Malaysia has commuted the death sentence imposed on Nigerian national Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Michael Phillips).

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Obayangbon, who was sentenced to the mandatory death sentence for murder in 2000, was scheduled to be executed in the early hours of 14 March 2014. Amnesty was notified just over 24 hours beforehand and immediately began campaigning to stop the execution.

Obyangbon was diagnosed with schizophrenia before his appeal in 2007 and despite international law prohibiting the imposition of mandatory death sentences on those with mental disabilities, his sentence remained.

Amnesty had grave concerns that his ability to make use of legal and clemency avenues available to him was seriously undermined by his mental health condition.

Amnesty International, along with other human rights groups, mobilised activists worldwide in Obyangbon’s support.

A life spared

Thanks to the efforts of Amnesty’s supporters, the execution was stopped at the last second on the 14 March 2014, and now, his death sentence has been commuted to a life in prison.

“He had already been on the way to the execution chamber when the call came in for it to be halted”, said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at Amnesty International Malaysia.

“Without your organisation, we would have been in grief and sorrow and we would have been devastated. I definitely would not have been able to send my children to school and wouldn’t be smiling back to them today”

Curtis Obayangbon

“Thank you for taking those Urgent Actions, for your lobbying efforts, and for every other action that you took to stop this cruelty and save a man’s life.”

Amnesty International Malaysia received a letter from Curtis, Osariakhi’s brother, saying thank you for saving his brother’s life.

When in 2014 Osariakhi was to be put to death, we cried to you at Amnesty International and even though time was against us, you did not give up. You put together a team from that moment that I contacted you and together with Hazel in London and your team in Malaysia, my brother’s life was saved. And you did not only save Osariakhi’s life, you restored hope to the family whose lives would have been shattered and meaningless had the execution been carried out. You did not relent after that, rather, you continued to champion the campaign for the abolition of Death sentence. The result of that effort is what we celebrate today; the commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.

The voice of the people is the voice of God. Your organisation have spoken against death sentence and God has granted it to Osariakhi and it will be so the world over. Without your organisation, we would have been in grief and sorrow and we would have been devastated. I definitely would not have been able to send my children to school and wouldn’t be smiling back to them today. Thank God that Amnesty International exist so that Osariakhi and others in similar situation might live. By this victory, you have sounded the dead bell on death sentence and you have reminded those in authority that only God can create and take live, not humans. Above all, you achieved this feat without collecting a dime from us for your good work!

On behalf of Osariakhi, we wish to thank you once again for restoring hope to the hopeless and thank you for those many phone calls at odd hours which you never refused to take. We are very proud of you and your organisation and may you continue to grow from strength to strength.

All the best,

Curtis Obayangbon

(From the family).

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Please take action below to stop The Philippines from re-introducing the death penalty. 

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