Malaysia is known to be one of the countries with the harshest drug laws in the world. Selling/trafficking drugs is a crime that’s punishable by death and the method of execution is through hanging.
It’s a subject that has been long debated by Amnesty International, who opposes the death penalty and has previously campaigned for total abolition of capital punishment. Amnesty International cited the lack of transparency in meting out death sentences in Malaysia, saying that Malaysia has a reputation for meting out death sentences in secrecy.
But as it turns out, Putrajaya has now agreed to review Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and allow courts to decide on the penalty for drug offences. This means that judges will be allowed to use their discretion in meting suitable sentences for offenders instead of imposing the mandatory death sentence.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said confirmed that the review was presented to the Cabinet on 1st March by Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Apandi had previously shown his support of abolishing the death penalty, expressing a wish for discretionary powers instead of sending convicts to the gallows in narcotics-related offences, which also includes those coerced or duped into becoming drug mules.
“The Cabinet has agreed to an amendment of Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to include the additional clause to provide discretionary powers to the courts when sentencing, apart from the mandatory death penalty, for drug trafficking. As such, the ministry as well as relevant agencies will prepare a Cabinet Ministers Memorandum together with a recommendation to amend the Act for the consideration and approval of the Cabinet,” The Star Online quoted Azalina as saying.
According to the Prison Department’s statistics, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39(B). However, the implementation of the amended law has to be done through the legal process and since it’s still at an early stage, there are many other processes to go through before a decision can be made.
Other countries in the Asian region that hand out severe penalties (read: death) as a punishment for drug offences include Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.