Over 1,000 inmates on death row may be spared the gallows following new law

KUALA LUMPUR: The 1,318 inmates on death row may be spared the gallows following a law passed by the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (April 3) to allow for a review of their mandatory death sentences.

"We cannot shy away from the conversation as to the fate of those on death row under the moratorium against the death penalty which was imposed in 2018," said Ramkarpal Singh.

"As of March 31 this year, there are a total of 1,318 inmates on death row where 476 are in the appeal process at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

ALSO READ: Dewan passes amendments to abolish mandatory death penalty

"Another 842 have exhausted their legal avenues of appeals while 25 others had their appeals rejected by the respective state pardons board," he added when tabling the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (April 3).

He said that inmates on mandatory death sentences will have 90 days to file for a review once the law comes into effect.

"It is not an appeal against their conviction but an application to review their mandatory death sentences by the Federal Court," he said.

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Ramkarpal said that he had personally visited several death row inmates in Kajang before the proposed laws were tabled in Parliament.

"They wanted to know what was to become of them and whether their families would be given a new glimmer of hope," he said.

At the same time, Ramkarpal said the sentence review by the Federal Court did not relook into the cases of those who had already been given the death sentence, adding that judges have discretionary powers over the matter.

"The courts still have the powers to maintain the death penalty if it decides so after reviewing the earlier sentence that was meted," said Ramkarpal.

"Prisoners also have a chance to file pardon appeal petitions to the state pardons board," added Ramkarpal.

He said the proposed law would operate retrospectively for the 1,318 death row inmates and would complement the law on the abolition of the mandatory death sentences.

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Ramkarpal said that the new law would also apply to 117 inmates who were sentenced to spend the rest of their natural lives behind bars.

Of this, he said 47 were convicts serving natural life imprisonment and 70 death row inmates who had their sentences commuted to natural life imprisonment by the respective pardons boards.

The law would allow the Federal Court to revise death sentences for these inmates and substitute them with life imprisonment between 30 and 40 years including between six and 12 strokes of the rotan depending on their crimes.

Ramkarpal denied that the retrospective law was against natural justice.

He said that the law was temporary in nature to deal with inmates on death row under the moratorium against the mandatory death penalty.

The Act was passed by a majority voice vote in the Dewan Rakyat.

Earlier the House passed a law to abolish the mandatory death sentence including doing away with the natural life imprisonment.

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