MALAYSIA — Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET), a Malaysian human rights NGO, has expressed disappointment over the delay in the abolition of the mandatory death penalty and the death penalty by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government.
The group stated that the delay in tabling the necessary Bills to abolish the mandatory death penalty, which the Cabinet had agreed to in December 2022, was cause for concern.
Assurances had been given that the relevant Bills would be tabled in February, and then in March, and that the mandatory death penalty would likely be effectively ended in May.
However, this Dewan Rakyat Parliamentary session, which started on 13 February, will end on 4 April 2023, leaving only about 7 Parliamentary days remaining.
After the Dewan Rakyat passes the Bill, it will then have to be passed by the Senate and the King before it can be gazetted and come into force.
MADPET stressed the importance of passing these laws to remove the mandatory death penalty since all those who have committed any crimes that now provide for such penalty until the laws abolishing the penalty come into force will still be facing the penalty for offences committed before the day the law comes into force.
The abolition of the mandatory death penalty will have no effect on the about 1,320 on death row, of which 840 have completed all appeals.
For those on death row, the only way now is a royal pardon that will commute the death penalty to a prison term.
However, considering the numbers on death row, and the fact that the King and Rulers have to obligation to deal with all crimes, not just death penalty offences, MADPET proposes an Act be enacted that immediately commutes the death penalty to a prison term for at least the 840 who have completed their appeals in court.
The past Perikatan Nasional led-government had already committed to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty by tabling seven separate Bills to do away with the mandatory death penalty on 6 October 2022.
After GE15, in December, Azalina Othman Said, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform), said that the Bills related to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty had already been agreed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Cabinet. She said that the Bills would be tabled in the Parliament sitting in February 2023.
Then, on 13 February, Ramkarpal Singh, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform), stated that the Bills would be tabled in March, passed in April, and gazetted in May. The abolition of the mandatory death penalty would not abolish the death penalty but merely return discretion to judges to decide whether to impose the death penalty or some other alternative sentence.
MADPET called for action, noting that any government can fall at any time, and thus speedy action to reform laws, policies, and practices is very important.
The group called for the immediate tabling of the Bills that will abolish the mandatory death penalty, noting that Malaysia has in 2018, 2020, and 2022 voted in favour of the UN General Assembly Resolution towards the abolition of the death penalty.