The Malaysian government has announced that it will be tabling a bill to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. This will apply to the 1,200 people awaiting executions, set to be hung for crimes including murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping, and acts of terror. Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo described the act as being “part of our election pledge and in line with the move away from capital punishment in the rest of the world.”
The death penalty has been used as punishment for the severest crimes for decades in Malaysia, and the appeal process for death row inmates has been criticized by citizens, politicians, and various human rights organizations as unjust and lengthy. On a global scale, capital punishment stands as a threat to world peace, by infringing human rights, as well as the concerning possibility of wrongful executions.
Amnesty International expressed support for the decision, calling it a major advance, while urging the Malaysian government to “completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions.” The organization has described Malaysia’s use of the death penalty as a “terrible stain” on the country’s human rights track record. Currently, 142 countries in the world have introduced legislation which prohibits the use of capital punishment. Many of Malaysia’s neighbours, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as East Asian powerhouse China, still support and actively use the death penalty, but there are hopes that Malaysia will set a positive example for other countries in the region to follow suit.
New Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad’s government symbolizes a marked change from the previous regime; his campaign for May’s elections emphasized the protection of human rights, and his move to abolish capital punishment may be only the first of a series of potential reforms for country. The country’s previous regime, in place since Malaysian independence in 1957, was known for being tough on crime and prioritizing the punishment of crimes over citizens’ rights.
Malaysia’s willingness to combat and condemn the country’s long history of the death penalty may come to represent a turning point regarding a controversial world issue. A complete consensus from the global community on the abolition of capital punishment would be significant progress for human rights, which would contribute to increased political stability and could in turn foster an environment for world peace.
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