Malaysia to end mandatory death penalty: Minister

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Malaysia’s cabinet agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and give judges the discretion to mete out other punishments to offenders in capital crimes, three years after a previous government made the same decision.

The move will require relevant laws to be amended, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet on Friday. He didn’t say when the draft laws would be presented to parliament for approval.

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The cabinet agreed further research into the matter was needed to ensure changes to the relevant laws would take into account principles of proportionality and constitutionality, Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said in a statement.

Friday’s decision is an important step forward, especially in light of how neighboring countries including Singapore are headed in the opposite direction, said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch.

“But before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with successive Malaysian governments promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little, he said.

Capital Crimes

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had planned to present to parliament a bill to end the mandatory death penalty in March 2020, but his government collapsed before that could happen.

Thirty-four offenses, including murder, drug trafficking and terrorism, are currently punishable by death in the Southeast Asian nation, according to a spokesperson from Wan Junaidi’s office.

Eleven of them carry a mandatory death sentence, he added.

More than two-thirds of nations have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, according to Amnesty International.

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