The Malaysian Bar welcomes the announcement by de facto law minister Azalina Othman Said, of a review of Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, in view to restoring judicial discretion over the death penalty.
"It is prudent and just that the decision regarding whether to impose the death penalty be left to the discretion of the judge.
"The statutory imposition of the mandatory punishment prohibits judges from considering mitigating factors and circumstances that surround each case, before sentencing," said newly-minted Malaysian Bar president George Varughese in a statement today.
The Bar also joins the chorus of others urging a moratorium on all pending executions.
"In the interest of justice and fairness, no executions should be carried out when reforms are in progress. It is only right that when the reforms come into effect, they should be applied retrospectively," said Varughese.
The Malaysian Bar also said that while at present the review is only for the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, it hopes that other laws with similar provisions be looked at.
It also reiterated its stand that the death penalty is an extreme, abhorrent and inhumane punishment, irrespective of the crime committed.
"The Malaysian Bar urges the government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, and to uphold the right to life, which is absolute, universal and inalienable." concluded its president.
On Thursday, Azalina announced in Parliament that the government had agreed to the proposal to review the mandatory death sentence for drug offences.
In her announcement, Azalina said attorney-general Apandi Ali was consulted by the cabinet, which had agreed to review Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, to allow judges discretion to decide on the penalty for drug offences.
The situations, she had said, included those who were tricked or forced into becoming drug mules.