Malaysia to end death penalty for all crimes

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

MALAYSIA’S new gov­ern­ment said it will abol­ish the death penalty for all crimes and halt all pend­ing ex­e­cu­tions, a rare move against cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in Asia that hu­man rights groups hailed Thurs­day as a ma­jor ad­vance.

More than 1200 peo­ple are on death row in Malaysia, which man­dates hang­ing as pun­ish­ment for a wide range of crimes in­clud­ing mur­der, drug traf­fick­ing, trea­son, kid­nap­ping and acts of ter­ror.

Law Min­is­ter Liew Vui Keong an­nounced Wed­nes­day that the Cab­i­net had agreed to abol­ish the death penalty and that amend­ments to laws with cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment were ex­pected to be pre­sented when Par­lia­ment re­sumes Mon­day, lo­cal me­dia re­ported. Liew couldn’t be reached for im­me­di­ate com­ment.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Gobind Singh Deo on Thurs­day con­firmed the Cab­i­net’s de­ci­sion.

“This is part of our elec­tion pledge and also in line with the move away from cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in the rest of the world,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the move would be a ma­jor ad­vance but urged the gov­ern­ment to “com­pletely abol­ish the death penalty for all crimes, with no ex­cep­tions.” It said the death penalty has been a “ter­ri­ble stain” on Malaysia’s hu­man rights record, and death row pris­on­ers of­ten have to wait years for their ap­peals to be pro­cessed.

“There is no time to waste, the death penalty should have been con­signed to the his­tory books long ago,” the hu­man rights group’s sec­re­tary­gen­eral, Kumi Naidoo, said in a state­ment, adding that 142 coun­tries world­wide have re­jected cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad’s al­liance won a stun­ning elec­tion up­set on May 9, oust­ing a scan­dal­tainted coali­tion in the first change of gov­ern­ment since in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1957. Its prom­ises in­cluded erad­i­cat­ing cor­rup­tion and bol­ster­ing hu­man rights.

The Malaysian hu­man rights group Lawyers for Lib­erty praised the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, say­ing the death penalty is bar­barous and point­less as it has never been proven to de­ter se­ri­ous crimes. Its ad­viser, N. Suren­dran, said the new gov­ern­ment has shown that “it is a force for moral good, and an ex­am­ple for the re­gion and the world.”

Many Asian coun­tries such as China and neigh­bour­ing Sin­ga­pore, In­done­sia, Thai­land and Viet­nam still im­pose cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.

Suren­dran urged the gov­ern­ment to not for­get the hun­dreds of Malaysians who are lan­guish­ing on death row in Sin­ga­pore and other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly for be­ing drug mules.

“We call upon the gov­ern­ment to vig­or­ously speak up for our cit­i­zens fac­ing death in dis­tant shores. Hav­ing re­jected the death penalty in this coun­try, we now have the moral author­ity to fight for the lives of our cit­i­zens abroad,” he said in a state­ment.

Photo: EPA

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional sec­re­tary­gen­eral Kumi Naidoo ad­dresses the me­dia in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa, on Au­gust 16.

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