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Malaysia abolishes mandatory death penalty and introduces life imprisonment as alternative


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Malaysia on Monday passed sweeping legal reforms that abolished the mandatory death penalty and abolished life sentences.

Malaysia has held a moratorium on executions since 2018, when it first promised to abolish the death penalty entirely.

But the government faced political pressure from some parties and reneged on the pledge a year later, saying it would keep the death penalty but allow courts to replace it with other punishments at their discretion.

Under the amendments passed on Monday, alternatives to the death penalty include flogging and prison terms ranging from 30 to 40 years.

The new prison sentence will replace all previous sentences that called for imprisonment for the offender’s normal life.

The life sentences, which Malaysian law defines as a fixed term of thirty years, will be retained.

The death penalty will also be removed as an option for some serious crimes that do not cause death, such as discharge, firearm trafficking and kidnapping, according to the new procedures.

Deputy Law Minister Ramkarpal Singh said the death penalty was an irreversible punishment and was not an effective deterrent to crime.

“The death penalty did not lead to the results it was intended to achieve,” he said at the conclusion of parliamentary debates on the bill.

The approved amendments will apply to 34 crimes currently punishable by death, including premeditated murder and drug trafficking. Eleven of them consider it mandatory punishment.

Malaysia’s move comes as some of its Southeast Asian neighbors have stepped up their use of the death penalty.

Government data showed that Singapore executed 11 people last year for drug offences, while Myanmar carried out its first executions in decades against four pro-democracy activists.

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