Malaysia weighs sparing drug mules the gallows
KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 ― The Attorney-General is considering removing the compulsory death penalty for drug mules and giving judges discretionary sentencing powers in such cases, The Malay Mail has reported.
The move follows Malaysia’s southern neighbour, Singapore’s plans to ease its mandatory death penalty in some drug and murder cases. The island republic is not, however, abolishing capital punishment, which human rights groups condemn as barbaric.
“We are getting advice from law experts throughout the world regarding drug laws and how are they applied in their country,” Tan Sri Gani Patail was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The planned amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, if seen through, may also mean a new lease on life for those previously condemned.
“Those on death row would be referred back to the courts, with legal representation, to be re-sentenced,” he was quoted further.
On Monday, Singapore announced its intention to ease its strict sentencing structure to give judges more leeway to deal with certain drug and murder cases.
“While there is a broad acceptance that we should be tough on drugs and crime, there is also increased expectation that where appropriate, more sentencing discretion should be vested in the courts,” Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told the country’s Parliament.
To avoid execution for drug trafficking, two specific conditions must be met, he said. First, the accused must have acted only as a courier, with no other part in the supply or distribution.
Malaysia and Singapore, which share similar justice systems, are among countries that still dispense the death penalty.
In March, the Malaysian Bar unanimously passed a resolution at its annual general meeting calling for capital punishment to be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment instead.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee had then said Lim empirical evidence from surveys has shown that despite the introduction of mandatory death sentences for an offence like drug trafficking, the number of cases continues to increase.
Putrajaya responded by saying there were no immediate plans to abolish the death penalty, with Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz insisting that Malaysia still needs the punishment as a deterrent for serious crimes.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said, however, that the proposal to remove the provision would be considered but only after a thorough review is conducted.