KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 – The news that Malaysia plans to put an end to capital punishment with an immediate reprieve to all who are on death row currently has been lauded by many groups, including Suaram and Amnesty International.
These human rights NGOS have long been advocating for an end to the death penalty and welcome the announcement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong that a bill to abolish the death penalty would likely be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.
According to Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy this was a turning point in Malaysia’s criminal justice system.
“With this, Malaysia would fully embrace the sanctity of human life in our justice system and prevent the state from inflicting irreparable damage when the state errs in dispensing justice,” Sevan said in a statement.
He added that it was time for Malaysia to distance itself from the primal instinct to inflict pain and revenge.
Moratorium, pardons board to review past cases
Yesterday, Liew, who is the de facto law minister, said that pending the bill being tabled and passed in the Dewan Rakyat, a moratorium has been put in place.
“All death penalties will be abolished. Full stop.
“We need to look into it and hear the views of all, but as it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty,” Liew he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
He added that the Pardons Board will now be reviewing all pending applications by death row inmates.
“Our view is that executions should not be carried out and we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them.
“When commuted, they would have to face life imprisonment because there had been several deaths that were caused by the offender and so they were sentenced to death by the court,” he said according to the portal.
Human rights lawyers give thumbs up
Prominent human rights lawyers Ambiga Sreenevasan, Eric Paulsen and Siti Kasim also took to social media to express their delight.
“Bravo to the reforming government. Let Malaysia lead the way in the region,” Ambiga tweeted.
“Syabas! (well done). Death penalty is the ultimate human rights violation and has no place in any civilised society,” Paulsen wrote on his Twitter account.
“Alhamdulillah… time to go back to be humankind. Death is the purview of God if you believe in one, and not mere humans,” Siti Kasim said in a Facebook post.
Dewan Negara could block ending death penalty
Under Malaysian law, the death penalty is mandatory for crimes such as pre-meditated murder, drug trafficking and possession of firearms.
However, despite the good news from Liew, there are some doubts that the bill, should it be passed by the Dewan Rakyat, could get through the Dewan Negara.
This has already been proven with the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Bill that was passed by the Dewan Rakyat in the last Parliament session, not being approved by the senators, most of whom are from Barisan Nasional and were appointed by the previous government under former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Death penalty end to help in Sirul’s return?
There is a strong suspicion that the moratorium and promise for the bill against the death penalty is part of the plan for the Pakatan Harapan government to reach an agreement with their Australian counterparts for murder convict Sirul Azhar to be repatriated.
Sirul is one of two policemen convicted for murdering Mongolian model Altantuya Shaaribuu in 2006.
He is currently at a detention centre in Australia, where he is hoping to get asylum.
As a rule, Australia does not allow the repatriation of any criminal who faces the death penalty in the country where they had been convicted.
Political observers have previously noted that Sirul’s return to Malaysia could see Attorney-General Tommy Thomas reopen the case, which had previously seen key witnesses not being called by the prosecution despite overwhelming evidence supporting such a move.
Cops had no motive to kill Altantuya
In 2009, Sirul and his accomplice Azilah Hadri were convicted of murdering Altantuya and were sentenced to death.
The Court of Appeal overturned the sentence in 2013 but the Federal Court upheld the death sentence upon the prosecution’s appeal in 2015.
However, before the appeal was heard, Sirul had already fled to Australia and was detained by the Australian Immigration after Interpol issued a red notice on him.
Meanwhile, Azilah is still awaiting a hearing on his plea for clemency.
There had been statements from various political leaders and human rights NGOs that the two cops were merely acting on the orders of their higher-ups as they had no motive to kill Altantuya, especially by blowing her up with C4 explosives so as not to leave any trace of her body.