Malaysia to abolish death penalty; Bill may be tabled soon

Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir Mohamad

KUALA LUMPUR-Malaysia's government is pushing ahead with its promise to abolish the death penalty, a move that sits at odds with the use of capital punishment elsewhere in Asia.

On Wednesday, Liew Vui Keong, the minister in charge of law, said the cabinet had made a decision to repeal the death penalty.

"We are calling on the Malaysian parliament to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions", Amnesty secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said in the statement.

"The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

"We have seen actually, and also there are some movies about the fact that people who were sentenced to death were found, after 10, 20 or 30 years, that they were innocent", he said.

"There is no time to waste - the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago".

"All death penalty will be abolished".

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"We are studying certain issues. we need to look into it and hear the views of all, but as it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty", he told the media after the "Law Reform Talk" at Universiti Malaya here, today.

Capital punishment is now mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and is carried out by hanging - a legacy of British colonial rule.

The moratorium on the death penalty affects, among others, two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il previous year. There has been continuous calls by local and global NGOs like Amnesty worldwide and SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) for such laws to be repealed as it has been subject to abuse by the executive power against its critics such as politicians who oppose the elected government, activists, journalists and even writers.

A total of 1,267 prisoners are on death row, making up 2.7 percent of the 60,000-strong prison population.

He said until the abolishment of the death penalty rakes place there should also be in place a moratorium of death penalty sentences from being carried out.

Only 23 countries retain the death penalty, with China believed to be the "world's top executioner", according to Amnesty International in its report last month on capital punishment in 2017.

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