BRUSSELS: Business tycoon Sir Richard Branson has commended Malaysia for its plan to abolish the death penalty.
The Virgin Group founder said the government's decision was one of the positive developments seen around the world when it came to the death penalty.
"I think I speak for us all in welcoming the Malaysian government's plan to abolish the death penalty and Iran's removal of the death sentence for a number of drug-related crimes," he said in a video message played at the 7th World Death Penalty Congress in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday (Feb 27).
He said the death penalty was often used as a political bargaining chip by politicians, especially during election season when leaders seek to boost their crime-fighting cridentials.
Branson said he considered the death penalty a barbaric and inhumane practice that had no place in modern society.
He said while his opposition to the death penalty was at its heart a moral opposition, he could see other compelling reasons why people should get involved in the abolition of the death penalty.
"From the perspective of an entrepreneur and investor, I think capital punishment is a strong indicator of a country's approach to governance, fairness and the rule of law.
"It also tells a lot about misguided priorities and a lack of responsibility.
"The moral argument against the death penalty should be enough," he said.
In October last year, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the Cabinet would abolish the death penalty, with a moratorium for those on death row.
Recently, Liew said a final decision would be made during one of the Cabinet's weekly meetings in March on whether to table a proposal in Parliament.
Malaysia's decision to do away with capital punishment has been mentioned several times during the opening of the Congress at the European Parliament, which was attended by more than 1,000 people from all over the world.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said that legislation could help change culture, pointing out that European countries once practised the death penalty too.
"(This is) Because cultures and attitudes can change, even when they seem too deep and too rooted, even when change seems impossible to achieve," she said during a speech.
Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) Director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan said a moratorium alone was not enough, citing the examples of Pakistan, Chad and Gambia as counties that reversed moratoriums on executions.
"For countries who are on a moratorium but maintained the death penalty, they have made a positive step but they should not stop in the middle of the river because otherwise who knows what can happen in a few years," he said.
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