UN Experts Welcome Malaysia's Plan to Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty

Wahyu Dwi Anggoro - 21 June 2022 13:48 WIB
UN Experts Welcome Malaysias Plan to Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty
The death penalty is incompatible with fundamental tenets of human rights. (Photo:
Geneva: United Nations (UN) human rights experts on Monday commended an announcement made by the Malaysian government that it will abolish the country’s mandatory death penalty and encouraged Parliament to take concrete steps to pass the agreement into law.

The policy shift will replace the mandatory death penalty with alternative sentences in relation to 11 crimes including murder and terrorism and give judges discretion to consider mitigating circumstances and commuting sentences for these offenses, the experts said.
"The death penalty is incompatible with fundamental tenets of human rights and dignity," the UN  experts said in a press release on Monday.

"We reiterate that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life and is a fundamental infringement upon the independence of judiciary and fair trial guarantees. It denies judges the possibility to consider the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstances of the particular offence and individualise the sentence," the experts said.

The experts said that with a de facto moratorium on executions already in place since 2018, the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia will send a strong signal in a region where capital punishment is too often imposed for crimes such as drug related offenses. 

Those sentenced to death, who in some cases include persons with disabilities, suffer from a severe deterioration of their mental health due to prolonged periods of imprisonment. 

In Malaysia, most of those sentenced to death are charged with drug related offences. 

"The majority of these offences do not meet the threshold of the most serious crimes, meaning intentional killing, which remains the only category of offense for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law," they said.

The UN experts also welcomed the government’s intention to revise the application of the death penalty for 22 other crimes. 

"This measure, if passed into law, will further bolster the global trend towards universal abolition, and contribute to the enhancement and development of human rights," the experts said.

Noting that no draft legislation has been released so far, the experts urged the Malaysian Government to introduce amending legislation without further delay and commute all death sentences to alternative sentences. 

The legislation will impact more than 1,300 convicts, many of whom belong to ethnic minorities, currently held on death row.

"We will continue to support Malaysia in its efforts towards full abolition, including by supporting ratification and implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Second Optional Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty," they said.

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. 

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. 

They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.


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