Malaysian Bar: Commute sentences of all inmates on death row

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Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn has proposed that the government look into commuting the death sentence of all inmates who are currently on death row.

This followed Putrajaya’s decision to support the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, which will give judges discretion to impose capital punishment.

“At present, there is a moratorium on the execution of death row inmates. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to work with the Pardons Board to ensure that the more than 1,359 convicted persons currently on death row are also spared the death penalty.

“We advocate that all death sentences be commuted to sentences of imprisonment, proportionate to the gravity of offences committed, and take into consideration the mitigating factors and distinctive circumstances that surround each case.

“Only then will the punishment meted out be both just and effective,” she said.

Cheah said the government’s decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty was a step in the right direction but said Putrajaya should move towards total abolition of capital punishment.

“The cabinet decision is clearly a correct one and a step towards the right direction, but more has to be done to ensure total abolition of the death penalty.

“The death penalty has no place in a society that values human life, justice, and mercy; nor does it assure a civilised and secure society, but diminishes our humanity.

“In an advanced society, our focus should be on rehabilitation and restoration, and very little is achieved in having the death penalty except to satisfy the need for retribution,” she said in a statement.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced that the government will amend 11 offences under the Penal Code and one under the Dangerous Drugs Act that carries the mandatory death penalty to give judges discretion on the punishment.

However, he added that the government has yet to set a timeframe for the amendments.

Wan Junaidi said many areas need refining, including the proposal to set up a tribunal to study cases already served with the mandatory death sentence.

“We note that there has been no announcement of any timeline or any release of draft legislation to this effect.

“The Malaysian Bar, therefore, calls upon the government to introduce the amending legislation without further delay. Any further delay will mean more people being sentenced to die,” Cheah said.

She added that the burden of imposing the death penalty is great as it leaves no margin for human error.

“The Malaysian Bar stands ready at all material times, to provide our assistance and commitment to the government for the requisite legislative reforms to be made in the short term, as well as to realise the ultimate objective of total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia as a long-term plan,” Cheah said. – Malaysiakini