Malaysia to abolish death penalty, halt 1,200 executions

By Sommer Brokaw

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Malaysia has decided to abolish its death penalty and work with pardon boards to spare the lives of more than 1,200 death row inmates.

The cabinet resolved to end the practice at a meeting Wednesday.


Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said changes to death penalty laws would be tabled until the next meeting, with necessary paperwork to abolish the death penalty in its final stages. He said there should be a moratorium in the interim.

"All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop," Liew said.

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"We are studying certain issues... we need to look into it and hear the views of all, but as it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty."

Execution by hanging has been mandatory in Malaysia for crimes of murder, drug trafficking and firearms offenses. Thirty-five people faced the gallows in the past 10 years, and 1,267 prisoners are still on death row.

"We will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commuted or they be released," Liew said. "When commuted, they would have to face life imprisonment because there had been several deaths that were caused by the offender and so they were sentenced to death by the court."

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Malaysian Bar President George Varughese praised the government's decision to end the death penalty, referring to the practice as "akin to taking 'an eye for an eye.'"

He also said the practice "diminishes our collective humanity."

"In a modern society, we must focus more on rehabilitation and restoration."

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Varughese said an inherent right to life is guaranteed by Malaysia's constitution.

Amnesty International applauded the move.

"Today's announcement is a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia," Amnesty International Secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said. "Malaysia's resort to the death penalty has been a terrible stain on its human rights record for years."

The government imposed a moratorium on executions in July, but criticism over a sentence in August for a man who sold medical cannabis oil to cancer patients sparked outrage. New Prime Minister Mhathir Mohammed then called for a review.

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