Malaysia to abolish death penalty; Bill may be tabled soon

Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto leaves following her release at the High Court in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur

Liew Vui Keong, a minister in the prime minister's department, said on Wednesday that amendments to the existing laws would be introduced in the next session, which begins on October 15.

Malaysia has chose to abolish the death penalty, a senior minister said Thursday, with more than 1,200 people on death row set to win a reprieve following a groundswell of opposition to capital punishment.

Australia has said it can only extradite him if Malaysia abolished the death penalty.

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Human Rights Watch hailed the "fabulous news", with its deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson saying the move would increase pressure on other countries in the region to follow suit.

Executions are now mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and is carried out by hanging - a legacy of British colonial rule.

Some 170 Member States have abolished or put a stay on executions, since the UN General Assembly's first call for a moratorium on its use in 2007.

And contrary to popular belief, the abolition of the death penalty does not lead to an increase in crime.

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Surendran claimed there were now "hundreds of Malaysians" on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules.

"Our view is that executions should not be carried out we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them".

"This is part of our election pledge and also in line with the move away from capital punishment in the rest of the world", he told The Associated Press.

In 2017, Malaysia carried out four executions by hanging. An example would be drug-related cases whereby due consideration should to be given to drug mules (currently tried under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death sentence) as opposed to those who were found guilty of a more serious crime. A total of 1,267 prisoners are on death row, making up 2.7 per cent of the 60,000 behind bars.

"The death penalty is barbarous, and unimaginably cruel", N. Surendran, an advisor with the Lawyers for Liberty rights group said in a statement.

"We strongly welcome the announcement by the Malaysian Government of its intention to abolish the death penalty", Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, the Swedish ambassador to Malaysia, wrote on Twitter.

The UN envoy noted the majority of executions today are carried out in China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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