Table bill to end mandatory death penalty, government told

George-Varughese-death-penaltyPETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar says the government should table a bill in the current parliamentary session to put an end to the mandatory death penalty, declare an official moratorium on the use of the punishment, stay any pending executions and commute every death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

In a statement today, Bar president George Varughese said the statutory imposition of the mandatory death penalty ties the hands of judges and diminishes their role in carrying out justice.

“It prevents them from considering the manifold mitigating factors and distinctive circumstances that surround each case, before sentencing.

“These factors include, and are not limited to, the offender’s age, rehabilitation goals, past criminal record, role played in the offence, mental capacity, reparations made, fear of another person, use of violence, harm done to property or persons, and degree of cooperation with the authorities.

“Justice will not be served if these factors are not taken into account before the mandatory death sentence is mechanically handed down – without a judge’s thoughtful consideration and weighing of any mitigating elements – to comply with the letter of the law,” he said.

Varughese’s statement came a day after news that the cabinet had unanimously agreed to allow judges to impose an appropriate penalty on drug traffickers instead of the mandatory death sentence.

This would be done under an amendment to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said.

Varughese said although the proposed amendment relates only to the death penalty for drug-related offences, the Bar believed that the death sentence should be removed for all offences, irrespective of the crime that may have been committed.

“The death penalty has no place in a society that values human life, justice and mercy,” he said.