Malaysia to abolish mandatory death penalty

Malaysia is one of only a few countries in the world to still impose a mandatory death sentence for certain crimes.

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar
Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has said the Malaysian government will abolish the mandatory death penalty [File: Ahmad Yusni/EPA]

Malaysia has confirmed it will abolish the mandatory death penalty, which is currently used in a number of offences, including murder and “terrorism”, and leave judges to decide the appropriate punishment.

After reviewing the findings of an expert report into proposed alternatives, the government will now consider proposed alternative sentences for the 11 offences that carry the mandatory death sentence, Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaffar said in a statement. It will also look into the use of the death penalty in 22 other offences.

“This shows the government’s emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed,” Wan Junaidi said.

Malaysia took its first steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in October 2018 during the short-lived Pakatan Harapan government, and currently has a moratorium on executions.

More than 1,300 people are on death row, according to local media reports, with most of those facing execution convicted of drug offences. United Nations experts have said countries that retain capital punishment should use it only for “the most serious crimes”.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) said in a statement it welcomed the move towards abolition of the mandatory sentence, which it said “does not provide justice as it deprives judges of the discretion to sentence based on the situation of each individual offender”.

It also called for reforms in the criminal justice system, including redefining drug cases, to differentiate between drug mules and actual traffickers.

Wan Junaidi’s statement did not say when the government expected to conclude its review of alternative sentences or give an indication of what the changes might entail.

“Before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera