A Bold First Move to Abolishing Death Penalty

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Drug traffickers may no longer face the mandatory death penalty if proven guilty as the government will table amendments to the law to return discretionary power to the judges.

While the death penalty remains apex in offences related to drug trafficking, the amendments proposed to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA) will provide guided discretion to the judge to mete out sentences.

The amendments will be tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said.

Instead of a mandatory death sentence for drug traffickers, penalties may include life imprisonment and whipping, ranging from 10 to 20 strokes.

While keeping in mind that the innocent should not be hanged, the government is firm in making sure that kingpins and drug dealers do not take advantage of the amendments by having stipulations that cover all aspects of drug trafficking cases.

According to Azalina, an in-depth study on the death penalty in Malaysia was undertaken by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and presented to the Cabinet in March.

The government’s bold move was applauded by opposition MPs and NGOs, especially those advocating against death penalties.

Under the original provisions of the DDA, the punishment for drug trafficking did not carry a mandatory death penalty but gave judges the discretionary power to hand out a jail term, life sentence or a death penalty.

The law was amended in 1983, removing the judicial discretion and requiring the trial judge, after convicting the accused under Section 39B(1), to deliver the death penalty under Section 39B(2).

Amnesty International said that this is the first move to abolishing the death penalty, stating that it is not proven the death penalty has been a deterrent to drug trafficking.

Currently, Section 39B provides for trafficking of dangerous drugs.

About 800 convicted drug traffickers are now on death row under this section as of August this year.