Governments must put an end to the death penalty

Sergio Conner
October 11, 2018

Law Minister Liew Vui Keong announced Wednesday that the Cabinet had agreed to abolish the death penalty and that amendments to laws with capital punishment were expected to be presented when Parliament resumes Monday, local media reported.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, who is the de facto law minister, said the only issue was what to do with the convicts now on death row.

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today urged Putrajaya to now focus on helping Malaysians on death row in foreign countries, following reports that a bill to abolish the death penalty will likely be tabled soon.

The government's announcement was "an encouraging sign", Amnesty International's Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. 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by local and global NGOs like Amnesty worldwide and SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) for such laws to be repealed as it has been subject to abuse by the executive power against its critics such as politicians who oppose the elected government, activists, journalists and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.

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 would save, among others, two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un previous year.

"All governments retaining the death penalty must immediately abolish it and put an end to the appalling conditions of detention that too many death row prisoners are forced to endure".

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"Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out", The Star newspaper quoted him as saying.

Drug offences account for the largest number of executions in Malaysia, where current laws enforce mandatory capital punishment for crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to drug offences and treason.

The penalty is exclusively carried out by hanging in Malaysia - a legacy of British colonial rule.

Between 2007 and 2017, 35 individuals were hanged, the New Straits Times newspaper said.

Once capital punishment is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral authority to fight for the lives of Malaysians facing death sentences overseas, he added.

The organisation said that it strongly opposed the death penalty, irrespective of the crime committed, as it was a violation of human rights.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand have death penalty laws.

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