Beginning on Tuesday, Malaysia will no longer impose the obligatory death sentence for a handful of major felonies.
According to a statement on the Malaysia Federal Legislation website, the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 was gazetted on June 30 and signed by Minister in the Department of Law and Institutional Reform Azalina Othman Said, with the date of implementation set for July 4.
According to the Minister, the new rules will affect around 1,340 death row inmates and over 100 serving natural life sentences, including 840 death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals.
Foreign nationals make up more than one-third of death row inmates.
Drug trafficking, murder, treason, and kidnapping are among the charges, with judges previously required to impose the obligatory death penalty as punishment, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Judges presiding over cases requiring the obligatory death penalty will now have the authority to impose other penalties such as a new alternative prison term of 30 to 40 years under the new law.
Malaysia has imposed a moratorium on executions since 2018, however because the obligatory death penalty statute remains in force, judges are obligated to continue sentencing suspects to death despite the fact that no executions have occurred since 2017.
Malaysia has maintained a de facto moratorium on executions since 2018, according to Human Rights Watch, having last carried out a death sentence by hanging in 2017.
In 2021, Malaysia was one of just 11 nations that enforced the death sentence for drug-related crimes.