PETALING JAYA: The government has been urged to amend the law to abolish the mandatory death penalty as soon as possible.
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture coordinator Charles Hector pointed out that the country has already voted in favour of abolishing the death penalty during the United Nations General Assembly on Dec 16. The resolution was eventually adopted.
“It is therefore unlikely that the government will not amend the law. We should do it quickly rather than continue with the moratorium (indefinitely),” Hector told theSun.
In 2019, The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government introduced a moratorium on executions pending the passage of legislation to abolish the death penalty.
However, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has yet to make any firm commitment on the matter since it replaced the PH administration in March, Hector said.
He noted that the government is now fully committed to addressing the Covid-19 crisis, and Dewan Rakyat sessions have been shortened, making it more difficult to raise other matters for debate.
Hector added that only those who are set to face trial will immediately benefit from abolition but others who are already on death row will have to be “re-sentenced”.
“This will enable the court to study each case again and decide on the appropriate punishment.”
He said another option was for the prime minister to advise the King to grant a pardon for all those on death row.
With the abolition of the death penalty, the court will have the power to determine an appropriate sentence based on the facts and circumstances of each case, Hector added.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy expressed hope that support for the UN resolution would not just be a political gimmick to boost the Malaysian government’s chances of getting elected to the UN Human Rights Committee.
He said Suaram welcomes the government’s decision to support the UN vote but hoped this support will turn to action.
“It is important for the government to quickly abolish the mandatory death sentence as the majority of those facing the death penalty were involved in drugs, especially drug addicts.”
Sevan said the Cabinet should decide quickly to approve amendments to laws.
He pointed out that under the PH government, there were discussions with civil society on abolishing the death penalty. However, there are no such discussions under the present administration.
Sevan said the PN government should publicly state its stand on the issue.
Bar Council president Salim Bashir called on the government to act as quickly as possible on the matter.
He said the government should honour all promises that have been made as it has shown its commitment by supporting the UN resolution.
The government should provide a time-frame on how fast the mandatory death sentence can be abolished, he added.