Malaysia to Abolish the Death Penalty

A shorter post this week bringing you a positive news update from Malaysia! The death penalty is a controversial topic with extremely divided opinion worldwide. Yes we are talking about criminals, but personally, I am against it and I am delighted to hear that Malaysia are making a monumental move to abolish their death sentence. In this major advancement pushed by their new government, Malaysia are set to join the 142 other countries who have banished the death penalty.

“[T]he new government has shown that “it is a force for moral good, and an example for the region and the world.” – Lawyers for Liberty/CBS News

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It was announced last week that the cabinet have accepted the bill to abolish the death penalty. Over the last ten years Malaysia has executed 35 individuals. Currently there are over 1,200 being held on death row in Malaysia, this includes Malaysians and foreign nationals. In the bid to abolish capital punishment the government is urged to not only ban future impositions of the death penalty, but extend a moratorium to those currently awaiting capital punishment in the country. Furthermore, a lawyer from Lawyers for Liberty (a Malaysian rights group) has added that once this abolition is complete, Malaysia will have the capability to campaign for their own nationals locked up on death row over seas. This will have the added benefit of lifting the burden on states currently housing Malaysian criminals who refuse to extradite them knowing that they would face death by hanging back home.

The death penalty is a mandatory punishment in Malaysia, who mandate hanging, for an array of offences from murder to drug trafficking. In March 2018 Amnesty reported that drug traffickers made up 799 of the prisoners on death row. In this sense, the abolition of capital punishment is going to lead to more proportionate punishments, even if this means life sentences, for both Malaysian nationals and foreigners.

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“[T]he 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.” – Amnesty International

Malysia will be joining neighbouring Cambodia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines in abolishing the death penalty. At present these three, soon to be four, are the only countries in the South East Asia region who do not impose capital punishment on offenders. Human rights organisations worldwide hope that this move from Malaysia, with the second highest conviction rate in the region, will set an influential bench mark for other pro death sentence countries in this part of the world.

This advancement hailed as a victory by rights groups, leaves only 23 countries worldwide retaining the death penalty. Whilst not a perfect record, it demonstrates the ability for morality to prevail. This decision is a credit to the new Malaysian government and pays homage to the claims they made during their election. There is excitement on the international plane to see not only what else the Malaysian government will act on, but the potential beneficial knock on effects this may have for its neighbours who continue to impose capital punishment.

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