Malaysia to abolish colonial era Sedition Act

Indonesian Siti Aisyah left and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong right escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam Malaysia

Indonesian Siti Aisyah left and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong right escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam Malaysia

Liew Vui Keong, minister in the prime minister's office, said Thursday that the paperwork to abolish the death penalty in Malaysia is now in its final stages after the cabinet approved the measure on Wednesday.

"The death penalty is barbarous, and unimaginably cruel", N Surendran, an adviser with Lawyers for Liberty, a Malaysian rights group with close ties to the centre-left People's Justice Party, said in a statement.

There are no jury trials in Malaysia for capital punishment.

"Our view is that executions should not be carried out we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them".

Drug offences account for the largest number of executions in Malaysia, where current laws enforce mandatory capital punishment for crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to drug offences and treason.

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.

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

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"Prisoners under sentence of death must be treated with humanity and dignity and held in conditions that meet global human rights law and standards", the organisation said in a statement on Wednesday, which is World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Earlier in his opening speech, Liew said the Pakatan Harapan government is also mulling a repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 and other draconian laws.

Amnesty International said the move would be a major advance but urged the government to "completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions".

"Once the death penalty is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral authority to fight for the lives of Malaysians facing death sentences overseas", he added.

The UN chief argued that legal representation or transparent criminal proceedings might have spared them from the death penalty.

Amnesty International has called on governments to put an end to the death penalty.

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

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