Law minister says death penalty alternatives need fine-tuning

Jerry Choong
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks to reporters during the Human Rights Day Forum in Kuala Lumpur December 10, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — A high-anticipated proposal on alternatives to the death penalty will now submit its report in January 2020, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

A special government task force was formed in end August to look into other punishments after Malaysia scrapped the mandatory death sentence, allowing judges a discretion in certain serious crimes.

Liew who is the minister in charge of law said the ask force needed several more weeks to fine-tune its report before it is ready for Cabinet.

“When submitted, I will study it before tabling it for Cabinet approval,” Liew told reporters after  attending the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s commemoration of the International Human Rights Day at the Sheraton Hotel here.

A Bill to repeal the mandatory death penalty is expected to be tabled in Parliament in March next year.

Liew said consideration is needed on what to do with the 1,281 death row inmates in the country, of whom 56 per cent are due to drug-related offenses.

“Some of it includes commuting sentences of prisoners to be hanged, to 30 years’ imprisonment instead.

“While others discuss about what is to be done with prisoners who have been serving for 20 years, and whether they should be released since they have served sufficient time,” Liew said.

The nine taskforce members include a former Chief Justice as its chairman, as well as a former Attorney General's Chambers official, a former Federal Court judge, Malaysian Bar and Suhakam representatives respectively, and civil society members.

Malaysia still has the death penalty but has repealed a provision that makes it mandatory for 11 criminal offences.

The Pakatan Harapan had initially promised to abolish the death sentence entirely as part of its 14th general election pledges.

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