Amnesty International Malaysia
22 December 2022
Responding to the announcement that the Malaysian government will table bills in Parliament to abolish the mandatory death penalty in February 2023, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Executive Director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said:
“We welcome the new government’s move to swiftly follow through on efforts to abolish the mandatory death penalty. If successful, this will be a positive and necessary step towards the full abolition of this cruel punishment.
We are pleased that Minister YB Azalina has noted that these bills will have an impact on the 1,327 people on death row, but there must be clarity in the law that the measures will be applied retroactively and all individuals on death row will have a chance to have their sentences reconsidered by the courts. Any alternative punishments introduced in place of the death penalty must be consistent with international human rights principles.
Malaysia recently joined 125 nations in support of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view towards its ultimate abolition. It now has a chance to show the world it means what it says by maintaining its moratorium on executions beyond the implementation of the new legislative amendments.”
On 22 December 2022, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Institutional Reform), Azalina Othman Said, said that the government will table bills on abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Parliament in February 2023.
The death penalty is currently retained for 33 offences in Malaysia, including 11 for which it is the mandatory punishment. An official moratorium on executions has been in place since July 2018, but the courts in Malaysia have continued to sentence countless people to death.
On 10 June 2022, the then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that the government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and give judges discretionary powers. On 6 October 2022, the previous government tabled amendments to seven separate laws for their first reading in Dewan Rakyat, with the combined intended effect being the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
The laws up for amendment were the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022, Kidnapping (Amendment) Bill 2022, Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2022, Firearms (Increased Penalties) (Amendment) Bill 2022, Arms (Amendment) Bill 2022, Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, and the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022.
However, since the bills were never voted upon—parliament was dissolved the following day ahead of the 15th general elections—the government now has yet another opportunity during the February 2023 Parliamentary session to make history and to spare lives. We are calling on it to do so.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.
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