NEWSFLASH – Malaysia – a positive first step towards abolition

25 October 2012

It was on 20 October 2012 that Malaysian Law Minister Nazri Aziz announced a review replacing the mandatory death penalty for drug offences. This review would entail a moratorium on executions for drug offenders. The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomes this review, urges the government to introduce a moratorium and to take further steps to abolish the death penalty in law.

“We welcome the Malaysian Government’s move to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, and hope that this is a first step towards total abolition of the death penalty in the country,” said Charles Hector, Coordinator of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, a member of ADPAN.

The death penalty is available for a range of offences in Malaysia; today over two-thirds of prisoners on death row in the country have been convicted under mandatory death penalty laws for drug offences.

“Mandatory death sentences are prohibited under international law, denying judges from exercising discretion and adding to the arbitrariness of an already unacceptably harsh penalty so this review a welcome step” said Louise Vischer, the coordinator of ADPAN today.

ADPAN highlighted its concerns around the mandatory death penalty in its 2011 report, When Justice Fails:  Thousands Executed in Asia after Unfair Trials.

When explaining the review, Law Minister Aziz noted that the Malaysian Government has urged clemency for Malaysians facing the death penalty for similar offences in other countries. In 2010, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister requested clemency for Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian sentenced to death under Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug offences. Aziz acknowledged the hypocrisy of the Malaysian Government in trying to save the lives of their own nationals on death rows abroad.

“If we want to save the Malaysian ‘drug mules’, a large number of whom were not aware they were being used, how can we appeal to those countries while we ourselves hang such offenders?”  Aziz asks.

A number of civil society groups and organizations in Malaysia are publicly supporting moves aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. In March this year, the Malaysian Bar Council called for an immediate moratorium, noting that the death penalty for drug offences “has had a zero deterrent effect”. The Council “hailed the move as a historic moment for the criminal justice system in Malaysia as it represented a significant step in humanising criminal law”.

ADPAN members Lawyers for Liberty also recently called on the Government to abolish the death penalty, “It is the ultimate denial of human rights. We welcome any move by the government to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, which is long overdue”.

ADPAN is calling on the Malaysian Government to support the 4th UN General Assembly resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty – to be discussed in December.

Contact:  Louise Vischer, ADPAN Coordinator, +44 207 413 5656, contactadpan@gmail.com

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