Aliran welcomes the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, as announced by de facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar yesterday.
This will now leave room for judges to exercise their discretion on whether to impose the death penalty for a range of offences or alternative sentences – unlike before when judges had no choice but to impose the mandatory death penalty for these offences.
This move is in keeping with the view that everyone deserves a second chance at redemption. Also, life is too precious to be snuffed out – all the more, when there is the possibility of an error or injustice in arriving at a guilty verdict.
Moreover, the death sentence has not been shown to be an effective deterrent for a range of criminal acts, as seen in the persistence of drug trafficking in the country.
We are heartened that some of the groundwork by previous administrations has been continued by the present government, resulting in this move to abolish the mandatory death penalty.
However, we are concerned that no timeframe or deadline has been set for its abolition. What happens to the 1,341 people currently on death row? How long must they live with this uncertainty? And has any thought been given to the families of victims who might need counselling over this move?
That said, the decision to do away with the mandatory death penalty for specified offences is a positive move in our long struggle to abolish the death penalty completely, so that we can join the 108 other countries that have already done so, along with many other nations that are abolitionist in practice. Only 55 countries (or 28% of all countries) retain capital punishment.
Let us persevere in the struggle to abolish the death penalty totally.Aliran executive committee
11 June 2022