Amnesty International calls for moratorium on death penalty to be continued

PETALING JAYA: Following the Bills tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (March 27) paving the way towards the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, a human rights group has urged for the moratorium on executions which has been in place since 2018 to also be maintained.

Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said the moratorium should proceed until the death penalty was fully abolished, with death sentences commuted.

"The removal of the mandatory death penalty is an important step, but should not be the last. Malaysia can and must swiftly work towards ending this cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment once and for all," she said in a statement on Monday (March 27).

Commending the government’s resolve towards reforms in abolishing the mandatory death penalty, Maliamauv said the bills, if successfully adopted, will have a direct impact not only towards those on death row but also their family members who have been long awaiting this reform.

"These historic amendments to the national legislation is a critical step that Malaysia simply must take in order to improve the protection of human rights in our criminal justice system.

"We call on all members of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to lend their support to both bills," she said.

She however noted that it is imperative for the authorities to ensure that any re-sentencing process is in line with international fair trial standards.

"This means ensuring that those applying have adequate time, resources including language support and access to legal representation to support their application, alongside ensuring that their right to appeal the decision is guaranteed.

"This is of critical importance as many of those under the death sentence come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds or are foreign nationals.

She also voiced concerns that whipping will remain part of the limited alternative punishments available to judges at sentencing under the amended law.

"As Malaysia progresses towards eliminating the mandatory death penalty, Malaysian leaders must ensure that any alternative punishments that take its place are not in contravention to the prohibition against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," she said.

On Monday, several crucial Bills were tabled in Dewan Rakyat to pave the way for the abolition of the mandatory death sentence while also criminalising live-streaming sex involving children.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of law and institutional reforms Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said tabled the Bills for their first reading.

Among the Bills tabled were the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 and the Revision of Sentences of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Bill 2023.

The Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 proposes to abolish the mandatory death sentences for 11 offences with the court having the discretion to impose the death sentences or life imprisonment between 30 and 40 years and not more than 12 strokes of the rotan.

The Bill also proposes to do away with the court's discretion to impose death sentences for 10 offences and replace it with a punishment of imprisonment between 30 and 40 years including not more than six strokes of the rotan.

The proposed laws under the Revision of Sentences of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Bill 2023, if passed, will act retrospectively.

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