Malaysia: Urgent changes needed to proposed reforms to Dangerous Drugs Act


Attribution: Gwen Lee, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia

Amnesty International Malaysia is deeply concerned by the Malaysian government’s proposed amendments to section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, that purport to provide the judiciary with more discretion, but in practice leave crucial decisions at the hands of the Public Prosecutor.

In the proposed amendment, the mandatory death penalty is retained for those convicted of drug trafficking and only those who are found to have been involved merely in transporting prohibited substances can qualify for the lesser sentence of life imprisonment and strokes of the cane – a cruel punishment prohibited under international law. Those eligible for the lesser sentence must obtain written certification from the Public Prosecutor of the assistance they provided to an enforcement agency in the disruption of drug trafficking activities.

“The long-awaited draft amendments to Malaysia’s mandatory death penalty laws are extremely disappointing. Not only are they just restricted to drug trafficking, but they still allow for the mandatory death penalty to be imposed except for very narrow circumstances. Malaysia can do more to protect human rights and we hope that through the Parliamentary debates we can see significant improvements to this problematic draft law”.

“The new amendment not only maintains the old problems of the law we had, but introduces new troubling features in our criminal justice system, by for example giving power to an official – who is neither a judge nor a neutral party in a trial- to effectively make a life and death decision. This is simply unacceptable”.

“The proposed measures seem to closely follow the amendments introduced in Singapore in 2013. We have monitored and summarized the effects of those changes in a recent report and we are concerned that this seems to be the elected model to follow. The death penalty does not work as an effective deterrent, it is high time for Malaysia to move beyond it and work on the root causes”.

“Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government and Parliamentarians to immediately reconsider the amendment of the Dangerous Drug Act 39 (B) and return full discretion to the judges. Pending full abolition of the death penalty, we also call on the Malaysian government to establish a moratorium on all executions, including as parliament debates on the laws governing this punishment are ongoing.”

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally, in any case and under any circumstances. According to figures by Amnesty International, Malaysia is among the only seven countries in the world where the death penalty is known to have been implemented for drug-related offences in 2016.

Public Document
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