Human rights groups applaud Malaysia’s move to scrap the mandatory death penalty. They see it as a major step forward towards eliminating capital punishment in Southeast Asia.
Instead of the death penalty, lawmakers on Monday, April 3, approved bills to make it possible to impose prison sentences of between 30 and 40 years.
Previously, courts had no choice but to mandate hanging as punishment for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping and acts of terror.
Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said Malaysia’s latest move could help moving towards abolition of the death penalty in the 10-member association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“Far too many ASEAN states like to brandish the death penalty as some sort of big stick to scare criminals, but that tactic is not really working. Crime in the regions has hardly diminished,” he said.
“Hopefully, it will be picked up by other states like Thailand, Laos and Brunei who have not put people to death for some time,” he added.
Robertson said the Malaysian government should show regional leadership by encouraging others in ASEAN to rethink their continued use of the death penalty.