Sunday, May 26

Over 95% of Eligible Inmates Seek Sentence Reviews as Malaysia Embraces Discretionary Justice and Human Rights Reforms

Law Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has announced that a staggering 95.8% of eligible death row and natural life imprisonment inmates—978 out of 1,020—have submitted applications for the review of their sentences since November 9.

The latest data from the Office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia reveals that there have been 871 applications for death sentence review and 117 applications for natural life imprisonment review under the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act.

In a statement, Minister Azalina said that the unity government wants to stress that the death penalty remains a sanctioned punishment for criminal offenses in Malaysia’s criminal justice system.

However, the recent amendments to the law have removed the mandatory aspect of the death penalty, granting judges the discretion to determine an appropriate punishment.

“The imposition of the death penalty is no longer mandatory, and the amendments to the law have now given judges the liberty to use their discretion to mete out the appropriate punishment,” stated Azalina.

She further emphasised that this shift aligns with the government’s commitment to affording a second chance to death row inmates, allowing them to reintegrate into society as ordinary citizens.

In a significant move, the Federal Court previously commuted the death sentence and natural life imprisonment of 11 inmates convicted of drug trafficking to life imprisonment and whipping following the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

The Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act now grants courts the option to choose between a death sentence and other alternatives for specific offenses, including murder, which was previously subject to the mandatory death penalty.

Under the new legislation, murder can now be punished with either the death penalty or an alternative sentence of 30 to 40 years of imprisonment, coupled with whipping of not less than 12 strokes.

Minister Azalina highlighted that today’s sentence review hearing exemplifies the principle of restorative justice, preserving Malaysia’s criminal justice system and underscoring the government’s commitment to upholding basic human rights.

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