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Malaysia Abolishes the Death Penalty as Well as Natural Life Sentences for Serious Crimes

  • Posted on April 3, 2023
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  • By Top Stories

 The elimination of the mandatory death penalty, a reduction in the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty, and the elimination of natural life sentences were all approved by Malaysia’s parliament on Monday. Rights organizations cautiously applauded the change.


Since 2018, when it initially pledged to abolish the death penalty, Malaysia has placed a moratorium on executions. A year later, under political pressure from some parties, the government said it would keep the death sentence but allow courts to substitute other penalties at their discretion.


 The recently passed amendments provide for the whipping and 30- to 40-year sentences as alternatives to the death penalty. All prior sentences that called for imprisonment for the entirety of the offender’s natural life will be replaced by the new jail term.


The legal definition of life imprisonment in Malaysia is a fixed period of 30 years. Significant offenses that do not result in death, like the discharge of a firearm, the trafficking of a gun, and kidnapping, will no longer be eligible for the death penalty.


Malaysia’s decision comes as some of its Southeast Asian neighbors have increased the use of the death penalty. Singapore executed 11 individuals for drug offenses last year, while military-ruled Myanmar executed four anti-junta dissidents, the first such executions in decades.


Ramkarpal Singh, Malaysia’s deputy law minister, claimed that the death penalty had been an inadequate deterrent because it was an irreversible sentence. When he concluded legislative discussions on the proposals, he claimed that “the death penalty has not produced the results it was designed to produce.”


The passed revisions relate to 34 offenses that carry a death sentence, including murder and drug trafficking. Eleven of them are required to wear it as a punishment. Under the new regulations, more than 1,300 people up for the death penalty or life in prison, including those who have exhausted all legal appeals, may request a sentencing review.


According to Dobby Chew, executive coordinator of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, adopting the changes was a positive first step towards abolishing the death penalty altogether. It’s a reform that has been long overdue, but overall, we are on the right course for Malaysia, he said.


We shouldn’t dispute that the government is killing people, but we should question whether it has the right to do so. Now that obligatory sentences have been eliminated, it’s a good time to think about this.




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