AUGUST 8 — The Malaysian Bar notes the statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs, YB Dato’ Sri Azalina Othman Said, in the Dewan Rakyat on 7 August 2017, that the Cabinet has decided that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 must be amended to allow Judges discretion in sentencing, instead of having to mete out the mandatory death sentence on drug traffickers/couriers.
The statutory imposition of the mandatory death penalty ties the hands of Judges when it comes to sentencing, and diminishes their role as Judges. 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.
Although the proposed amendment relates only to the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, the Malaysian Bar is of the view that the death penalty 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.
The Malaysian Bar regrets that despite the Government’s repeated announcements, over the past several years, that it has been looking into abolishing the mandatory death penalty, no draft legislation has yet been tabled.
The Malaysian Bar urges the Government — if it is indeed determined in this regard — to table a Bill in the current session of Parliament to put an end to the mandatory death penalty, as well as to declare an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty, stay any pending executions, and commute every death sentence to one of life imprisonment.
* This statement is submitted by George Varughese, president, Malaysian Bar.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.