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Putrajaya urged to halt hangings pending change in law

Parliament has yet to vote on amending the law to abolish the death penalty.

Parliament has yet to vote on amending the law to abolish the death penalty.

Ho Kit Yen - March 6, 2019 8:00 AM

PETALING JAYA: Two lawyers have called for a moratorium on the execution of death row inmates until Parliament votes on a bill seeking the abolition of the death penalty. Kitson Foong and M Visvanathan, both of whom practise criminal law, said it wasn’t clear to the public whether a freeze had been imposed on all hangings or only on the execution of those convicted of drug trafficking.

They urged Putrajaya to make an announcement on the matter and on whether Parliament would be considering the abolition bill at its sitting that will begin this Monday, as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong promised last October.

“As I understand it,” Foong told FMT, “there is an unofficial moratorium on the carrying out of death sentences and it is applicable only to drug trafficking cases. “In the interest of justice, there ought to be an official statement to that effect.” Both lawyers also called for a halt on appeals in capital punishment cases pending the vote on the bill. Visvanathan said he would not be surprised if the government decided not to table the bill at the coming Parliament meeting.

“It looks too soon for the government to abolish the death penalty,” he said, noting that there were groups against such a change in the law. He suggested that Putrajaya engage the public on the issue.

Another lawyer, Rafique Rashid Ali, said the government must tell at least the judiciary when it planned to table the bill. If it was imminent, he added, the courts should stay their hearings on death penalty cases. In Malaysia, the death penalty is imposed on those guilty of murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping, treason and possession of firearms. The previous government promised to review the provision for a mandatory death sentence under the Dangerous Drugs Act.


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