The National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam) welcomes the government’s move to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences.
The mandatory death sentence deprives the sentencing judge of the discretion to consider all relevant facts of the case and the individual circumstances of each convicted person. A sentencing judge must be given the option to impose the appropriate sentence.
Whilst removing the mandatory death sentence is a step in the right direction, we would urge the government to abolish the mandatory death sentence in its entirety for all criminal offences.
The death penalty violates the right to life guaranteed under Article 5 of our federal constitution and is undoubtedly a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to international law. A recent public opinion survey on the death penalty in Malaysia undertaken by Emeritus Professor Roger Hood QC from the University of Oxford has shown that the majority of the Malaysian public does not support an imposition of the death penalty.
We also urge the government to impose a moratorium on the execution of 1,022 death row prisoners currently waiting for execution pending the abolition of the mandatory death sentence for all criminal offences.
Having been on the Human Rights Council and presently on the Security Council as a non-permanent member, Malaysia must show a genuine commitment to abide by international norms in relation to the right to life and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
We hope that the government will continue taking steps in the right direction towards the ultimate abolishment of the death penalty.
AMBIGA SREENEVASAN is president, National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam).