Malaysia abolishes forced death penalty, natural life sentence
KUALA LUMPUR: On Monday (April 3), the Malaysian Parliament passed sweeping legislative reforms to abolish the mandatory death penalty, reduce the number of crimes punishable by death and abolish natural life imprisonment.
Malaysia suspended executions after first promising to completely abolish the death penalty in 2018.
However, the government faced political pressure from some political parties and a year later rescinded its promise to keep the death penalty but allow courts to substitute other punishments at their discretion.
An amendment passed on Monday would include lashing and imprisonment of between 30 and 40 years instead of the death penalty. The new term of imprisonment replaces all previous provisions requiring confinement for the duration of the offender’s natural life.
Life imprisonment, defined by Malaysian law as a fixed term of 30 years, remains.
Under the new measure, the death penalty is no longer an option for some serious crimes that do not result in death, such as gun trafficking and kidnapping.
The Malay Mail reported that the law amendment would give judges discretion when handing down the death penalty to those convicted.
The passed amendment applies to 34 crimes currently punishable by death, including murder and drug trafficking. Eleven of them carry it as a mandatory punishment.
Deputy Justice Minister Ramkarpal Singh said the death penalty was an irreversible punishment and had not been an effective deterrent to crime.
“The death penalty did not have the intended result,” he said, closing parliamentary debate on the bill.
The bill now needs to be approved by the Malaysian Senate before being submitted to the King for approval, the Malay Mail reported.
The Star previously reported that if the bill passes, more than 1,300 people currently on death row could ask federal courts to review their sentences.
Prime Minister’s Office (Legal and Institutional Reform) Minister Azalina Othman said death row inmates will be able to file applications for sentencing review.
She added that the application can be made only once and must be made within 90 days of the new law taking effect.
In June, the Malaysian government announced its decision to abolish the death penalty as part of its commitment to refrain from executions at the international level.
“We are of the view that everyone deserves a second chance,” said former Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakob, according to Bernama.