The government must stop dragging its feet in amending the death penalty law, following the recent announcement that a review of capital punishment in Malaysia has been completed.
Anti-death penalty groups have urged for prompt reform, saying that proposed changes to capital punishment sentences were overdue.
“The attorney-general has said he is not objecting (to reform of mandatory death sentences) last November. (Minister in Prime Minister’s Department) Nancy Shukri has already said she will table the amendments in March 2016. The study was commissioned quite some time ago.
"The government should table the proposed amendments speedily. Delay in amending the law is 'torturous' for those still under the death sentence by reason of the existence of the mandatory death penalty provisions in law," Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) coordinator Charles Hector told Malaysiakini.
Meanwhile, regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) cited Malaysia’s response at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report in front of UN member countries in late 2013.
"The Malaysian government has, time and again, announced that this study was underway, in response to the UPR review, as well as in response to calls by NGOs for it to abolish the death penalty," said Adpan executive member Ngeow Chow Ying.
While waiting for change to happen, they called for all executions to be halted and sentences commuted.
"The government should announce a moratorium on executions now until the amended laws come into force.
"The government should ensure that those facing the mandatory death penalty will have their sentences commuted to imprisonment,” said Hector.
Nancy announced the completion of the study on capital punishment in Malaysia at the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, last month.
“There are positive signs in Malaysia, and a steady momentum towards possible change in the death penalty legislation,” Nancy said in a brief statement during a panel to kick off the international meeting.
Commissioned by the Malaysian government and carried out by the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-Cells), the study, however, took more than three years to complete.
Regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) said it was disappointed with the lack of significance of the minister’s speech.
“I expected a more substantial speech – at the very least, a summary of the report which had taken more than three years to complete.
“I am skeptical of the pace of reform, considering the state of Malaysia’s human rights record and the political environment at present,” said Ngeow.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu pointed out that despite the government’s reform promise, executions were carried out even during the review period.
“While studies on death penalty reforms were conducted, Malaysia continued to execute death row inmates, with the last known executions being the triple executions on 25 March, 2016,” Shamini told Malaysiakini.
She said according to Amnesty International’s Death Sentences & Executions 2015 report, Malaysia was among 25 countries which executed people in 2015 and one of 61 countries that handed out death sentences last year.
The proposed reforms are a "positive step forward" for Malaysia but the NGO, which opposes both mandatory and discretionary death sentences, said the amendments may not be as progressive as hoped for by civil society.
“From what we understand, these reforms may be restricted to the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences,” said Shamini.
Hector echoed similar concerns.
“Now, the talk is about abolishing mandatory death penalty when earlier, it was about abolishing death penalty,” he said.