The Cabinet has agreed to several new policies related to efforts to abolish the mandatory death penalty, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said.
She said the new policies, endorsed at its meeting last Friday, include replacing life imprisonment as an alternative to the mandatory death sentence with a new alternative of jail of between 30 and 40 years and whipping of not fewer than 12 strokes.
"Apart from this, life imprisonment as a form of penalty has been fully abolished in all laws. The death sentence has been abolished for offences which did not result in death except for three offences, namely under Sections 121 and 121A of the Penal Code and Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.
"And there is a new bill to enable the death penalty or life imprisonment which has been imposed to be reviewed by the Federal Court.
"This proposed bill is expected to have an effect on 957 death sentence and life-term prisoners who have completed their appeal process in court before this," she told the Dewan Negara today.
Azalina was replying to a question from Koh Nai Kwong on the status of a proposal to implement a substitute penalty for the mandatory death sentence for various offences.
She said the policy of the Madani government was not to abolish the death penalty but to give judges the discretion to impose sentences.
Azalina said the first reading of the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 and Review of Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment (Temporary Jurisdiction of Federal Court) Bill 2023 will be carried out on March 27.
"The Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 is expected to have an effect on 476 death sentence prisoners who have not yet completed the appeal process, whether at the Court of Appeal or Federal Court.
"This is because the alternative penalty to the mandatory death sentence will have a retrospective effect," she added.
Azalina said the government had conducted 19 engagement sessions and meetings with interested parties such as government agencies, lawyers, former chief justices, constitutional law experts, death-row prisoners as well as NGOs such as the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network and Reprieve from the UK.
"Legal amendments involving policies on punishment and substitute sentences to the mandatory death penalty are a positive change to make the country’s criminal justice system more holistic and inclusive, apart from not denying individuals their basic right to proper justice," she said.