Death Penalty in Malaysia: To Abolish or Not to Abolish

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The death penalty remains an issue of international debate today. Many organizations and countries throughout the world have been working towards a complete abolition of the death penalty, a form of punishment deemed to be archaic and ineffective. As of 2017, 106 countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes and 146 abolished it either in law or practice (Amnesty International 2018). However, 56 countries are still retentionist. The different execution methods used at present are hanging (used by most countries), death by firing squad, electrocution, gaseous asphyxiation, lethal injection, stoning, beheading and being thrown off a high wall. Malaysia is one of the 56 countries that remains the sentence of the death penalty. The method of execution in Malaysia is hanging as stated in s 277 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The main reason behind the success of abolishing the death sentence is when citizens around the globe become more aware of the importance of their constitutional rights in the country they reside in. Most of these constitutions have provisions such as “right to life” and other provisions that discourage death sentencing. In Malaysia, It is of utmost importance to make reference to the Malaysian Federal Constitution in the issue of right to life as the author addresses the death penalty law. Article 5(1) states clearly that: –

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, save in accordance with law”.

This article above has been used by those who are against death penalty. But, the phrase “save in accordance with law” should be scrutinized as it gives very wide arbitrary powers to the court to decide when it is appropriate to have removed the rights of people even in the most drastic situations that involve the taking of another’s life.
Another argument uses by those who support abolishment of death penalty is by looking at the religious view. Based on Islamic view, one of the most famous verses that is almost always raised when dealing with death sentences are as follows:

“Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law”

This verse has given a clear picture into the underlying principle of Islam where no one should be given the right to kill anyone unless it is in accordance to the law. This could be an affirmative statement for the usage of the death sentence in a legal system in the view of Islam. However, it would be crucial to bear in mind the question of law where what could be considered as just to the extent of taking one’s life.

In conclusion, I think that the Government of Malaysia should review the death penalty laws and retain a discretionary death penalty for only the most serious crimes and criminals who are beyond rehabilitation and have a potential to endanger the safety and security of the nation. The imposition of the death penalty must be limited only to rare, exceptional cases and carried out with extreme caution and responsibility as it involves the lives of people. Malaysia should take a similar stand as the Supreme Court of India who stated that the death sentence should only be used in very rare cases.

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