All relevant laws around capital punishment in Malaysia will be amended
This comes more than three years after the administration pledged to move away from capital punishment as a legal response to extreme cases of crimes.
The country’s Cabinet will also study substitute sentences for all offences that currently resort to death penalty, law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on Friday.
“The government has also accepted in principle and taken note of the recommendations of the Special Committee on Substitute Sentences on the Mandatory Death Penalty explained in the report,” the minister said.
Among the few southeast Asian countries, Malaysia has slotted mandatory execution sentences against some offences like drug trafficking and murder. The country’s law also makes exceptions for other crimes in cases directed by the court.
The government had decided on a moratorium on executions since 2018 but it overturned the decision promising abolishment of mandatory and discretionary death penalty.
In the next year, the government announced that it would scrap the punishment but leave it to courts to decide if a convict should be hanged to death.
The law minister said that authorities have followed recommendations by a government committee reviewing alternative punishments before arriving at the decision.
“A further study will be carried out in collaboration with the attorney general’s chambers, the legal affairs division of the prime minister’s department and other interested ministries or departments,” the statement by the law minister read.
It added: “This action is very significant to ensure that the amendments to the relevant Acts take into account the principles of ‘proportionality’ and the constitutionality of any proposal to the government later.”
However, it did not issue a timeframe confirming when the process to change the laws will be initiated.
“The decision shows the government’s priority in ensuring the rights of all parties are protected and secure, and reflects the transparency of the national leadership in improving the country’s dynamic criminal justice system,” Mr Wan Jundaidi said in a statement.
This was backed by Malaysian health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who said that all relevant laws around capital punishment will be amended to consider the changes.
Human rights activists and organisations have lauded the move and said that the country must follow its words.
“We need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with successive Malaysian governments promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little,” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch said.
“But before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect,” he told AFP.