The Southeast Asian country has mandatory death penalty for some offences, including drug trafficking and murder, while the law also allows the punishment for some other crimes at the court's discretion.

Malaysia has had a moratorium on executions since 2018, when it also made a promise to abolish mandatory and discretionary capital punishment.
Malaysia has had a moratorium on executions since 2018, when it also made a promise to abolish mandatory and discretionary capital punishment. (AP)

Malaysia's government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty sentence and replace it with other punishments at the discretion of the court, revisiting a pledge made over three years ago.

Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on Friday that the Cabinet agreed to abolish mandatory capital punishment but further study would be conducted on what sentences could be substituted for it.

"The decision on this matter shows the government's priority to ensure the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed," he said in a statement.

The death penalty remains mandatory for several offences in the Southeast Asian nation, although a moratorium on executions has been in place since 2018.

That year a reformist alliance took power and announced it would abolish capital punishment entirely but the plan stalled due to opposition from political rivals and murder victims' families.

Since then, a watered-down proposal of axing only the death penalty in cases where it is mandatory had been mooted.

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'Step in the right direction'

As well as offences where capital punishment is mandatory, there are several other crimes where the death penalty can be handed down at the judge's discretion.

Legislation will need to be enacted in parliament to make the changes, and Wan Junaidi said it would "take a little while", without giving a timeframe.

The process is "not as simple as people would imagine it," he added.

Amnesty International Malaysia's executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv hailed the move as "a welcome step in the right direction, and we urge (the government) to go further and work towards full abolition of this cruel punishment.

Opposition lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh — whose party was in power when the government first proposed abolishing the death penalty — indicated he was supportive of the move.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies