Rethinking Death

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Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty, a move that many human rights groups applauded as bucking a trend in a region where capital punishment is rising, CNN reported.

The government said over the weekend that mandatory death sentences for serious crimes would be replaced by “alternative punishments” and left to the court’s discretion.

Officials emphasized that this does not mean the abolishment of the death penalty but, rather, allowing judges the discretion to impose an alternative penalty, according to Channel News Asia.

The government also plans to revise certain laws impacting judicial punishment and also carry out research on alternative sentencing for a variety of crimes that carry the death penalty, including drug charges.

The decision comes three years after human rights campaigners admonished the government for reversing a previous pledge to abolish capital punishment entirely.

Amnesty International said no executions were carried out in Malaysia throughout 2021 but noted that more than 1,300 people were sentenced to death as of October 2021 – 526 of them are foreigners.

Human rights advocates praised the decision as “an important step forward,” in a region that has seen a rise in capital punishments.

Singapore recently executed an intellectually disabled Malaysian man convicted on drug charges, despite global condemnation. Meanwhile, Myanmar, run by a junta that came to power in a coup, is preparing to execute two men long involved in civil rights and politics accused of “being involved in terrorist acts” in what would mark the first judicial executions in the country in decades.

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