Standing against death penalty in Asia: Malaysia leads the way!

29 October 2018

There’s a lot of activity in Asia! After Malaysia officially announced its interest in abolishing the death penalty, it is hosting a regional parliamentary seminar on 30 and 31 October entitled “Oppose the death penalty in Asia”. Many associations fighting for human rights and the abolition of the death penalty will be present at the Malaysian Parliament, in its capital Kuala Lumpur, to exchange views with ministers and parliamentarians from the region. It is an opportunity to recall the values associated with the abolition of the death penalty, to demystify its deterrent effect, but also to address the dignity of people on death row, or to open new perspectives by taking measures for its abolition. A decisive meeting, therefore, for progress towards the abolition of the death penalty, since the various exchanges organised during these two days should lead to the adoption of a regional action plan. The host country is injecting a significant dynamic into this meeting! A brief reminder in a few dates of the progress made by Malaysia, which in April 2017 was ranked 10th among the countries that executed the most people sentenced to death the previous year (Amnesty International)

– In November 2017

the Malaysian Parliament passed a bill abolishing the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. Nevertheless, Malaysian legislation continues to provide for the mandatory death penalty for other crimes (including murder and terrorism).

– In May 2018

the 14th general elections held led to the historic victory of the opposition party “Pakatan Harapan” (“Coalition of Hope”), led by Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir. This new government comes after more than 60 years of reign of the coalition of Barisan Nasional.

– On July 2nd 2018

the Malaysian government suspended the death sentences imposed on 17 prisoners, pending a review of national laws on the death penalty. A few days earlier, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Deputy Prime Minister, announced that the government was considering abolishing the mandatory death penalty for all crimes in the country.

– On October 11th 2018

the Malaysian Minister of Law, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, announced that a proposal to abolish the death penalty would be submitted to parliament as soon as the parliamentary session opened on October 15th.

Marie-Lina Samuel, Africa-Asia Project Coordinator at ECPM, gave us encouraging insights in mid-October:

“This announcement is a huge boost for all those fighting against the death penalty in the difficult areas of Malaysia and South East Asia in general. However, we must be careful. Although the Malaysian Government has clearly announced its position and a law is being drafted, the decision is not solely a matter of will: the adoption of the text will be discussed at the next parliamentary session on October 15th. Until now, Malaysia has voted against the moratorium resolution in its country. If the Government really wants to consolidate its position, it will have to vote in favour of the United Nations moratorium resolution. It will also be the role of civil society and abolitionist stakeholders to ensure that this will does not run out of steam. » Among the co-organisers of this seminar: ECPM and its partners ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network), PGA (Parliamentarians for Global Action), but also with the support of the European Union, the Parliament of Malaysia, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.