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Malaysia has abolished the mandatory death penalty and will now leave judges to decide the appropriate punishment for crimes such as murder and terrorism.
A total of 11 offences carried the mandatory death penalty, but the findings of an expert report has convinced the government to look at proposed alternative sentences, according to Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku. They will also look at 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, as Al Jazeera reports.
Malaysia has looked at abolishing the death penalty since in October 2018 during Pakatan Harapan’s tenure in charge, and there is currently a temporary prohibition of executions.
According to local media reports, it is said that 1,300 people are on death row in Malaysia, with most convicted of drug offences. Experts from the United Nations say capital punishment should only be used for 'the most serious crimes'.
The move from Malaysia to abolish the mandatory death penalty have been well received by Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), which issued a lengthy statement in response to the news.
The ADPAN said: “The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomes the announcement by the Malaysian government that it will be reviewing and abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
“The mandatory death penalty regime does not provide justice as it deprives judges of the discretion to sentence based on the situation of each individual offender. This regime has resulted in absurd sentences that have led to public outcries, such as those involving Hairun Jalmani, a single mother sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Tawau, and Mainthan Arumugam, a person on death row for a murder that never happened.
Syabas! 👏👏— Eric Paulsen (@EricPaulsen101) June 10, 2022
Abolishing the mandatory nature of the death penalty is a significant step in the right direction. However, ultimately the aim must be its total abolition. https://t.co/Qxxdol5lkl
“In addition to abolishing the mandatory death penalty, critical reform, including but not limited to mental health and criminal culpability; redefining drug offenses to account for drug mules and other exploited individuals within the drug trade; and strengthening rehabilitative justice and victim support system needs to be considered.
“ADPAN reiterates our support for Malaysia’s abolition of the mandatory death penalty and calls on the Malaysian government to engage with key stakeholders and experts to support and further the systemic reform suggested by the Minister of Law.”
Wan Junaidi did not indicate when the Malaysian government review into alternative sentences will be concluded or what changes would be implemented.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, believes the latest developments should be greeted with cautious optimism.
“Before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect.”
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