Malaysian police sometimes use torture to extract confessions from suspects in death penalty cases and their trials are often unfair, Amnesty International said Thursday, piling pressure on the government to abolish capital punishment.
The Southeast Asian country has the death penalty for dozens of crimes and it is mandatory for several offences, including murder and drug trafficking.
A reformist alliance which took power in 2018 pledged to scrap capital punishment entirely, a move that would have handed a reprieve to almost 1,300 people on death row.
But after facing opposition, officials announced only the mandatory death penalty for some offences would go, leaving it to judges in such cases to decide whether to order someone to hang or jail them.
In a new report, Amnesty said that torture and beatings were sometimes used to force confessions from suspects accused of offences punishable by death.
A Malaysian on death row, who was arrested in possession of methamphetamine in 2005, said police broke his finger during interrogation and he was forced to sign an inaccurate statement, according to Amnesty.
It was common for defendants who could not afford a lawyer to go without any legal assistance until charges were brought in court, and they were often left without legal support for long periods, the rights group said.
“From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it’s clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia’s criminal justice system,” said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia.
“Amnesty International’s research shows why this government must now honour its pledge to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment without delay.”
Legislation to make the changes is expected to be tabled in parliament soon. A moratorium on executions has been in place since last year, shortly after the new government took power.
Amnesty urged the government to take the first step towards total abolition by eliminating the mandatory death penalty entirely, including for drug-related offences, when it puts forward the new legislation.
It said 73 percent of those on death row were convicted of drug crimes.
The Malaysian law minister’s office did not have an immediate response to the report.