Malaysia To Abolish Death Penalty, 1200 Prisoners to Get Reprieve
Malaysia to abolish death penalty (Photo: Amnesty International)

Malaysia has decided to abolish the death penalty, a senior minister said on Thursday. The announcement offers a reprieve to more than 1200 people who are currently on death row in the country.

The minister in charge of law Liew Vui Keong said earlier Thursday there would be a moratorium on executions for inmates currently on death row, according to local media. "Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out," the Star newspaper quoted him as saying.

The moratorium on the death penalty would save, among others, two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year.

The Malaysian government announced the abolition of the death penalty after a groundswell of opposition to capital punishment. Executions are currently mandatory in Malaysia for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and are carried out by hanging — a legacy of British colonial rule.

Human Rights Watch hailed the “fabulous news”, with its deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson saying the move would increase pressure on other countries in the region to follow suit.

Amnesty International ranked Malaysia 10th in the use of death penalty among the 23 countries that carried out capital punishment in 2016.

Between 2007 and 2017, 35 individuals were hanged, the New Straits Times newspaper said.

Only 23 countries retain the death penalty, with China believed to be the "world's top executioner", according to Amnesty International in its report last month on capital punishment in 2017.

Excluding China, Amnesty says Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan - in that order - carried out 84 per cent of all executions in 2017.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's coalition romped to a shock win in a May general election on the back of promises to clamp down on rampant corruption and repeal oppressive laws, some of which date back to British rule.