15 November 2023
In response to Malaysia’s top court commuting the sentences to death and imprisonment for natural life of eleven individuals convicted of drug trafficking, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Executive Director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said:
“We welcome the decisions by the Federal Court yesterday to commute the sentences of death and natural life imprisonment in the first cases it heard of people seeking resentencing following the repeal of the mandatory death penalty. This milestone outcome grants them a second chance to life. This decision is a good commitment by Malaysia to better align with human rights standards and brings us a step closer towards the full abolition of the death penalty.
We are, however, deeply concerned that whipping, which is part of the alternative punishments available to judges, was imposed on two individuals out of the 11 cases heard. Both men, below the age of 50, were ordered by the court to be caned 12 times. Whipping is a form of torture and is unacceptable under human rights standards. The organization urgently calls on the Malaysian government to impose an immediate moratorium on whipping, remove it as punishment for all offenses for which it is retained, and expedite the ratification of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As Malaysia progresses in its legal reforms, it is crucial to ensure that the pursuit of justice is coupled with the unequivocal protection of human rights, and the elimination of corporal punishment is integral to this transformative process.”
The Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 (Act 846) and the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of The Federal Court) Act 2023 (Act 847) – came into effect on 4 July and 12 September, respectively.
In addition to repealing the mandatory death penalty and introducing sentencing discretion for all offenses for which it was applicable, Act 846 replaces life and natural life imprisonment with alternative sentences of imprisonment between 30 and 40 years and whipping of no fewer than 12 strokes.
As of 14 November 2023, Act 847 has allowed 978 out of 1,020 individuals under the sentence of death or imprisonment for natural life – with their sentences already confirmed by the Federal Court – to file an application in court to review their sentences.
An official moratorium on executions has been in place since July 2018, but the courts in Malaysia have continued to sentence many people to death.
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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