Malaysia Considers Banning Death Penalty After Study Says ‘Ineffective Deterrent’

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia is taking the next step in abolishing the death penalty, with the cabinet issuing a memorandum to all ministries to gain feedback on the move even as it faced opposition among some lawmakers.

The decision to remove capital punishment in all 32 of Malaysia’s laws was made at a cabinet meeting on Oct. 10, Liew Vui Keong, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, told parliament on Tuesday. A study commissioned by the government found the death sentence to be an ineffective deterrent, and raised the issue of wrongful convictions and human rights.

Public outrage over a death penalty handed to a 29-year-old man convicted of possessing, processing and distributing medicinal cannabis oil promoted a national debate on capital punishment. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, has said the verdict and relevant law should be reviewed in the country, where Muslims make up more than half of the population. The cabinet has since reached a consensus that capital punishment should not be applied in the case.

Still, the death of a 11-month-old girl from sexual abuse last week has prompted some members of the ruling party to call for the decision to be revisited. The suspect was tested positive for methamphetamine, which spurred Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah to tell reporters Tuesday that the government needs to study the root cause of drug-related crimes before deciding to end capital punishment, the Star reported. Ramkarpal Singh, a lawmaker from the ruling coalition, said the death penalty should be retained in "exceptional cases, especially gruesome murders" in light of the baby’s death.

Liew told parliament that the decision to abolish the death penalty was made for all offenses, including for those convicted of murder. "So far, the memorandum from the cabinet is still being circulated to the ministries to take into account the views of the public and those on the ground," he said.

The government is looking to replace the punishment with 30 years imprisonment.

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