And what of justice for the victims?

HER small body was found stuffed in a sports bag – 28 days after her abduction. A cucumber and a brinjal were found stuffed inside her genitals and her rectum had ruptured.

Pathologists estimated she had died about six hours before the discovery of her body – meaning she had been in the hands of the monster or monsters that had violated her for four whole weeks.

This was the gruesome sexual assault and murder of eight-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin – dubbed "the country's most horrifying crime in years".

She had been abducted into a white van when she went to buy a hairclip at the wet market near her house in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, in August 2007.

The news of her ordeal and death unleashed a massive outpouring of public grief and sympathy for her family, and outrage against the unknown perpetrators of the heinous crime.

Over the years, this nation has seen a number of heinous crimes, and each time they made the news, there was without fail a strong public reaction.

We all feel sorrow, sympathy and despair for the victims and their families, as well as anger and outrage against the perpetrators for their abominable acts.

At the same time, there is always massive pressure put on the police to solve the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Other high profile cases that have stirred strong public outcry include:

» the rape and murder of IT analyst Canny Ong whose charred remains were found in a manhole near a highway construction site, after being abducted from the Bangsar Shopping Centre by aircraft cabin cleaner Ahmad Najib Aris in 2003.

» the rape and murder of 22-year-old business development executive Noritta Samsudin at her rented apartment in Sri Hartamas also in 2003.

» the case of Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu who was reportedly blown to bits with C4 explosives after being killed in a deserted area in Shah Alam by two police personnel in October 2006.

Much earlier, back in 1993, a case that was the talk of the country was the murder of politician Mazlan Idris at the hands of witch doctor Maznah Ismail, better known as Mona Fandey, her husband Mohd Affandi Abdul Rahman and his assistant Juraimi Hassan .

More recently, and being heard in court now, are the murder cases of cosmetic queen Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya, 47, and her three associates – driver Kamaruddin Shansudin, 44, banker Noorhisham Mohamad, 38, and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32 – at a farm in Tanjung Sepat, Banting, two years ago.

On trial for the murders are lawyer N. Pathmanabhan, 44, and three farm hands who are said to have later burnt and disposed the victims' remains in a nearby river.

The cases cited here are merely some of the many heinous crimes that have caused thousands of people to suffer the loss of their loved ones at the hands of criminals.

The question here is whether the perpetrators of such vicious crimes against society – those who preyed on and snuffed out the lives of innocent children and defenceless women – should be made to pay with their lives, if convicted.

There have been renewed calls by human rights activists for the death penalty to be abolished, on grounds that capital punishment is incompatible with a modern, civilised justice system.

This followed Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz's statement that the government may impose a moratorium on the execution of drug traffickers, while a review of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking is undertaken by the Attorney-General's Chambers.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory only for murder and drug trafficking, and it is left to the court's discretion for other offences such as treason, acts of terrorism, mutiny, waging war against the king, kidnapping and hostage taking, gang robbery with murder and possession of firearms.

Is the way we execute criminals inhumane or barbaric?

The approved method of execution here is by hanging, and the remains of the condemned man is even returned to his family for a decent funeral – which is often more than can be said about how these criminals had treated their victims, whose remains are sometimes, not even recovered.

We are after all not using crude forms of execution which in some parts of the world in the past included being boiled to death, flaying, slow slicing, disembowelment, crucifixion, impalement, crushing (sometimes by an elephant), stoning, execution by burning, dismemberment, sawing, decapitation, or being blown up by canon fire.

Even the United States, for all its championing of human rights, still has capital punishment in a number of its states and uses lethal injections, the electric chair or the gas chamber for executions.

If at all it is felt that hanging is barbaric, then what Parliament should consider is whether to switch to other forms of execution, like lethal injections, and not do away with capital punishment.

So, should the killers of Nurin Jazlin, Canny Ong, Altantuya Shaariibuu, Sosilawati Lawiya and her associates not pay with their own lives if they are caught and found guilty?

Should such criminals be merely kept in prison for longer terms, at the cost of taxpayers who have to foot the cost of building more prisons, hiring warders and providing food for the prisoners? I think not.

As for the plan to do away with the death penalty for drug trafficking, the idea is equally ridiculous, as the merchants of death who sell drugs are a bigger threat to the nation.

Some may argue that the death penalty has not been a very effective deterrent seeing that so many are still caught trafficking drugs.

But I think a deterrent, even one that is not super effective, is better than none. Imagine how many more people will be involved in drug trafficking, if the death penalty is removed.

In my opinion, once the case against them has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, and they have exhausted all avenues of judicial review as well as pleas for clemency, the judicial process has been duly served. Then what should follow, should follow. Hang them!

Freddie Ng is managing editor of theSun. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com