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Malaysia confirms pledge to end death penalty

Southeast Asian nation to impose ‘alternative punishments,’ put a moratorium on 1,337 death-row inmates
Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu (left) and Brian Yap, representatives from Amnesty International Malaysia, attend the launch of a report on the death penalty in Malaysia in 2019

Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu (left) and Brian Yap, representatives from Amnesty International Malaysia, attend the launch of a report on the death penalty in Malaysia in 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 16, 2022 03:57 AM GMT
Updated: September 16, 2022 04:20 AM GMT

Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty and replace it with other types of punishment for several offences, a government minister said.

Minister of Law, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the decision was made after a series of meetings held on Sept 6 and 13, Channel News Asia reported on Sept. 14.

The meetings of the Substitute Sentences for the Mandatory Death Penalty Task Force Technical Committee were led by Minister Jaafar and key members of government agencies who agreed in principle to a proposal to substitute the sentences for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty.

The minister also announced a moratorium for 1,337 death-convict inmates in Malaysia.

He also reiterated his stand on abolishing the death penalty and bringing in punishments that match the gravity of the offence.

“I remain committed to fighting for fairer and compassionate laws on the issue of whipping and the death penalty,” the minister stated in a Facebook post.

"A welcome step in the right direction"

The recommendations of the Technical Committee will be submitted to a cabinet meeting and then presented in parliament this month.

Representatives of the Malaysian Prison Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Royal Malaysia Police, and representatives from various agencies attended the meeting

In June, the Malaysian government initiated the process to abolish the mandatory death penalty, which was a long-standing demand from activists. The move was hailed across the globe.

Amnesty International Malaysia's executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv hailed the move as "a welcome step in the right direction, and we urge [the government] to go further and work towards full abolition of this cruel punishment,” AFP news agency reported in June.

In Malaysia crimes punishable by death include drug trafficking, terrorism, murder, rape resulting in death, kidnapping, and the possession of firearms wherein the judge does not have the option to give any alternate or lesser punishments.

The Catholic Church in Malaysia has been vehemently opposing capital punishment and is vocal in supporting its removal from the justice system.

“Waiting for the day when we can celebrate the abolition of the death penalty"

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) is an abolitionist campaign supported by people from all levels of society including Christians.

In Oct. 2018, Charles Hector, a member of MADPET voiced his support for the then government's move to end capital punishment.

Hector said that they were “waiting for the day when we can celebrate the abolition of the death penalty, and death row will disappear in Malaysia,” the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.

Malaysia carried out its last execution in 2018 and then imposed a moratorium.

In contrast to Malaysia, Singapore has drawn the ire of the international community for the recent executions of 10 prisoners for the crime of drug trafficking.

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