KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has tabled a Bill in the Lower House of parliament on Monday (Mar 27) to abolish the mandatory death penalty.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said tabled the first reading of the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 as well as revisions to the death sentence and imprisonment for natural life.
“The abolition of the mandatory death penalty is an initiative that has been researched, studied, and considered by the government since 2012,” said Ms Azalina in a statement on Monday.
“(It) is aimed at valuing and respecting the life of every individual while ensuring justice and fairness for all parties including murder victims, victims of drug trafficking, as well as the families of these victims.”
Bernama reported that according to a blue copy circulated in parliament on Monday, the Bills seek to substitute the mandatory death penalty with life imprisonment of between 30 and 40 years as well as caning of between 6 and 12 strokes, depending on the crime.
However, a death sentence can still be imposed, based on the court’s discretion.
“The policies proposed through these Bills are a middle path to ensure that justice is preserved for all,” said Ms Azalina.
According to The Star, the Bills are expected to be passed by next Tuesday once they have been debated.
It also reported that if the Bills are passed, over 1,300 people currently on death row can seek a review of their sentence by the federal court.
Ms Azalina said that death row inmates will be able to file an application for a review of their sentence.
According to her, the application can only be made once and must also be made within 90 days of the new law coming into force. However, the courts may choose to extend the 90-day time frame subject to reasonable grounds.
Ms Azalina also noted that through the proposed laws, the federal court will be given the jurisdiction to review the cases of 840 death row inmates including 25 others whose pardon appeals were rejected by the Pardons Board.
“A total of 476 death row inmates, who have yet to exhaust their appeal process in court, will also be covered by the law,” she added.
There are currently 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty, including murder, drug trafficking, terrorism, kidnapping and possession of firearms.
Last June, the Malaysian government announced its decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty as part of its commitment at the international level to refrain from imposing the capital punishment.
“We are of the view that everyone deserves a second chance,” said former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, according to Bernama.