Malaysia: Calls for abolition renewed after disappointing reforms to drugs law


In response to the Malaysian Parliament’s adoption on 30 November of amendments of  the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Acting Executive Director Gwen Lee said:

Amnesty International Malaysia is deeply disappointed at the legislative amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act,1952, that the Malaysian Parliament has adopted today. We waited for years only to see little change to laws on dangerous drugs but provide for the mandatory death penalty that are already problematic.

While last minute amendments to the Bill removed a troubling proposition that would have granted the Public Prosecutor an upper hand than the judge at sentencing, we still remain concerned that those facing conviction and the death penalty for drug trafficking will be made to cooperate with the authorities to be spared the noose, while at the same time defending themselves against a possible conviction.

This is deeply troubling, including because Malaysian judges can rely on presumptions of drug possession and trafficking which, when invoked, shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant.

Contrary to what we have hoped for, the Bill has failed to provide the judiciary with full discretion to impose sentences and to take into account mitigating factors of the defendant.This amendments requires the judges to make ‘life or death decisions’ based on a limited set of circumstances provided by the new Bill.

Once the Bill comes into force, the mandatory death penalty will be retained for all but the extremely narrow circumstances of those convicted of merely transporting, carrying, sending or delivering a prohibited substance and who also are found to have cooperated with law enforcement in disrupting drug trafficking activities. When discretion is available, life imprisonment and not less than 15 strokes of the whip – a cruel punishment prohibited under international law- are the only available alternatives.

The mandatory death penalty and the death penalty for drug-related offences are prohibited under international law. Through its work against the death penalty globally, Amnesty International has observed that it is often people from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and with low-level involvement in the drug trafficking chain that end up paying the price with the death penalty.

Malaysia is among the minority of countries – 23 in 2016 – that still execute people and among the only seven countries where executions were carried out for drug-related offences last year, according to information gathered by Amnesty International. As of today, 142 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Malaysia must stop tinkering with the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and join the global trend towards its abolition.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally in all cases and has published its concerns on the proposed measures in the document “Malaysia: Action needed to make death penalty bill meaningful opportunity for change”, available from:

Public Document


For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Amnesty International Malaysia’s office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on:

+603 7955 2680 or

email: [email protected]

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