Malaysia’s Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 was gazetted on 30 June 2023 and came into force on 4 July 2023.

This Bill makes the death penalty an option and no longer mandatory and allows judges the discretion to mete out sentences on a case-by-case basis.

The amendments in the Bill include replacing life and natural life imprisonment (until death) as an alternative to the mandatory death sentence.

In the new Bill, those charged can face between 30 and 40 years of imprisonment and a minimum of 12 strokes of the cane.

Since July 2018, Malaysia has placed a de facto moratorium on executions pending institutional reforms.

Image: Malay Mail

The last death row prisoner was hanged in 2017. Since the legislation to carry the mandatory death penalty remained effective, the courts were bound to continue sentencing defendants to death despite the moratorium on executions.

The Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill eliminates the mandatory death penalty for 12 offences previously subject to it, such as drug trafficking, murder, treason, and terrorism. 

Additionally, the death penalty is entirely removed as a sentencing option for seven offences, including attempted murder and kidnapping. However, the death sentence for drug trafficking under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 remains.

Here are some of the crimes that the courts have maintained the death sentence:

The murder of Nurul Nadirah

Five-year-old Nurul Nadirah Abdullah or Dirang as she was affectionately known was buying instant mee and eggs at a grocery near her house at Flat Seri Delima, Bandar Seri Alam on 1 March 2012.

According to the Borneo Post, she was on her way home when Muidin Maidin brought her to an oil palm plantation where she was killed and her remains burned. The cops found traces of the suspect’s DNA on the victim’s private parts.

In June 2013, he was sentenced to death by hanging by the Johor Bahru High Court after he was found guilty of murder.

He has appealed the sentence various times which was rejected on 15 December 2014 by the Court of Appeal and on 28 May 2015 by the Federal Court.

On 9 July 2024, the Federal Court ruled that his death sentence by hanging remains after taking the entire incident into account and the nature of the crime. This is despite his participation in religious and motivational activities while in prison.

The serial rapes and murders in Bentong

Rabidin Satir aka Rambo Bentong was a serial rapist convicted of murdering a teenager and an employee of the Bentong Forestry Department.

He got the nickname for living alone in the forest and using a “Rambo” knife to threaten and assault his victims.

In 2012, Rabidin entered the home of a 31-year-old Bentong Forestry Department employee and struck him on the head with a gun while he was asleep with his wife. Rabidin then raped the pregnant wife of the deceased twice.

In 2014, he was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a 17-year-old at a house in Kampung Kestari Bentong, Pahang. He was charged with raping the girl but the High Court acquitted him because the court couldn’t ascertain whether the rape was committed while the teenager was alive or after her death.

Rabidin applied for a review of his death sentence under the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023. He is now suffering from high blood pressure and is wheelchair-bound.

On 9 July, the three-judge panel of the Federal Court upheld the death penalty due to the brutal and inhumane murders.

The rape, murder, and violence suffered by Chee Gaik Yap

On 14 January 2006, Chee Gaik Yap, a 25-year-old female marketing executive, was abducted while jogging with her younger sister at a park near their house in Sungai Petani, Kedah.

Her semi-naked body showing multiple injuries was found near a golf course not far from where they jogged.

An autopsy report found that she sustained a total of 50 injuries, including stab wounds, all over her body and that she was raped and sodomized before her death. A stab wound on her neck measured 15cm long and the severity of the wound led to massive blood loss.

Shahril Jaafar, the son of a Datuk businessman, fled to Australia for three years to escape investigation and arrest. He was finally arrested at KL International Airport upon his arrival from Perth in January 2012.

He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty by the Alor Setar High Court in August 2015.

His appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court were dismissed in 2016 and 2018 respectively. He also applied to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment under the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023.

On 29 May 2024, the Federal Court upheld his death sentence due to the exceptional violence the victim suffered.

The sexual abuse of an infant

An 11-month-old baby girl named Nur Muazara Ulfa Mohammad Zainal or Zara was sent to the babysitter’s house at Pangsapuri Sri Cempaka, Bandar Baru Bangi, at 6.45am on 7 November 2018.

On that day, the babysitter’s husband, Hazmi Majid, an ex-barber, volunteered to bathe the victim despite never helping his wife with babysitting duties before.

He sexually abused the infant and the infant died two days after being in critical condition at Serdang Hospital, Selangor. The Star reported that the infant suffered severe haemorrhaging of the brain.

He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which provides for the death penalty upon conviction.

In 2019, he was also found guilty of murder and sentenced to 13 years in prison and 12 strokes of the cane by the Shah Alam High Court.

In March 2023, the Court of Appeal upheld the death sentence that was handed down on Hazmi by the Shah Alam High Court on 20 August 2021.

On 2 July 2024, the Federal Court upheld the death sentence despite Hazmi’s lawyer’s request to replace the death sentence with a 30-year imprisonment and that his client was unaware of his actions due to being under the influence of drugs.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tetralina Ahmed Fauzi said the plea of being under the influence of drugs should dismissed since Hazmi attempted to dispose of evidence by washing a towel to remove blood, showing that he was conscious when the incident happened.

The rape and murder of a woman in Ampang

A woman was raped, sodomised, and killed in a flat in Kampung Tasik Tambahan, Ampang, Selangor on 19 September 2019.

K Sathiaraj was found guilty of murder and was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which provides the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

The Ampang Sessions Court sentenced him to 13 years in jail and five lashes of the cane.

Sathiaraj appealed to have his death sentence replaced with a prison sentence under the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023.

The Court of Appeal upheld his death sentence on 27 February 2024.

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