Mandatory death sentence in Malaysia

Mandatory death sentence is abolished in Malaysia

Malaysia’s Law minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced in a press statement that the government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty, giving judges discretion in sentencing.

The Cabinet had also agreed for a further study to be carried out on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offences carrying the mandatory death penalty.

Why it matters: Mandatory death sentence are imposed as the mandatory punishment for certain offences, meaning that judges are not able to consider the circumstances of the crime or of the defendant before sentencing.

The crimes punishable by death in Malaysia are:

  • Murder
  • Drug trafficking
  • Treason
  • Waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King)
  • Terrorism
  • Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder
  • Possession of Firearms
  • Abetting Mutiny (Armed Forces)
  • Hostage taking

There are still a total of 1,359 people were reported to be on death row as of November last year. About 70% of them under sentence of death have been convicted of drug trafficking under section 39(b) of the Dangerous of Drugs Act, 1952.

Under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act, those in possession of 15 g or more heroin and morphine; 1,000 g or more opium (raw or prepared); 200 g or more cannabis; and 40 g or more cocaine will receive the mandatory death sentence.

What to watch: Despite the government announces the abolishment of mandatory death penalty, it is not yet official until the Parliament passes the legislative amendment.

The big picture: Death sentence is not totally abolished, but instead of mandatory, judges are given the discretion on whether to sentence it to the offenders or not.

The accused will be given a chance to defend themselves if they are innocent or the crime is not as heavy as to be sentenced to death.


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