KUALA LUMPUR, 10 June – The Malaysian government has agreed today to abolish the mandatory death penalty for 11 offences that carry the death penalty, including the Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952.
Malaysian Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the decision came after he presented a report to the cabinet on alternative sentences for the mandatory death penalty during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
“This shows the government’s emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed, thus reflecting the transparency of the country’s leadership in improving the country’s criminal justice system,” he said.
As of November 2021, a total of 1,359 people were reported to be on death row in Malaysia.
The government’s decision comes after years of calls and campaigns by local and international human rights organisations for Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.
The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomed Malaysia’s decision to review and abolish the mandatory death penalty.
“The mandatory death penalty regime does not provide justice as it deprives judges of the discretion to sentence based on the situation of each individual offender.” it said in a statement.
“This regime has resulted in absurd sentences that have led to public outcries,” the statement added, citing the case of Hairun Jalmani, a single mother sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Tawau, and Mainthan Arumugam, a person on death row for a “murder that never happened”.
While the decision doesn’t mean a complete abolishment of the death penalty, it gives judges and courts the power to not order the death penalty for specific crimes that carry the death penalty, including crimes under the Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952.
Malaysia had previously voted in favour of two United Nations General Assembly resolutions calling on states to establish a moratorium on executions in 2020.