Malaysian Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar Friday announced the state’s abolition of the mandatory death penalty and replacement with “substitute punishments” at the courts’ discretion.
The Attorney General’s Chambers, Legal Affairs Division, Prime Minister’s Department and Ministries in collaboration will conduct research and study on the proposed substitute punishment to make certain that the amendments to the relevant acts take into account the principles of “proportionality” and the constitutionality of any proposal. Law Minister Jaafar said “the government’s decision shows commitment in ensuring the protection of the guaranteed rights, reflecting the transparency of the country’s leadership in improving the dynamic criminal justice system.”
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, supported the decision and said,
Malaysia’s public pronouncement that it will do away with the mandatory death penalty is an important step forward, especially when one considers how trends on capital punishment are headed in precisely the opposite direction in neighbouring countries like Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam. 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.
Amnesty International says 33 offenses are punishable by death in Malaysia and is used mostly for murder and drug trafficking. Before the Law Minister’s announcement, 12 offenses carried a mandatory death sentence, including murder and discharge of a firearm during the commission of an offense. In July 2018, the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad implemented a moratorium on executions.