KUALA LUMPUR: Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) said on Friday that it opposes the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act, which was passed in Dewan Rakyat on Thursday.
In a statement, AIM urged the government to abolish the bill completely.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, when winding up the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017, said the amendments are for the good of the nation, and that the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences had taken 34 years to accomplish.
Far from considering the move a step towards a fair and more humane approach to sentencing, AIM acting executive director Gwen Lee said AIM is concerned that those facing conviction and the death penalty for drug trafficking will be told to cooperate with the authorities to escape the noose.
“Amnesty International is deeply disappointed at the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 that Parliament has approved. We waited for years only to see little change to the laws on dangerous drugs, but (which) provide for the mandatory death penalty that is already problematic.
“This is deeply troubling, because the judges can rely on presumptions of drug possession and trafficking which, when invoked, shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant.
“Contrary to what we hoped for, the bill has failed to provide the judiciary with full discretion to impose sentences and to take into account mitigating factors of the defendant.
“The amendments require the judges to make life or death decisions based on a limited set of circumstances provided by the new bill,” the statement read.
Azalina had said that the amendment does not mean that judges’ hands will be tied by the government – rather, that it will give them two choices of punishment, either hanging or imprisonment for life.
She had also said that Section 39B is strict and that defendants must be proven guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”, or there would be grounds for appeal.
Those accused can end up being acquitted, while those convicted can still appeal to the court, Azalina added.