KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Death row prisoners totalling 1,341 have been living in a state of limbo since 2018 pending resolution on death penalty laws, because of the moratorium on executions.

According to a report by The Star, 905 of the prisoners were convicted on drug trafficking charges, which carry a mandatory death sentence, while 403 were convicted of murder.

“I have discussed this (those on death row due to the moratorium on death sentences) with the Attorney General’s Chambers in early May.

“It will require a lot of amendments to several laws such as the Penal Code, Dangerous Drugs Act and Criminal Procedure Code.

“There is also the consideration on what the alternative punishments can be,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was reported as saying during a recent media interview with the English daily in Putrajaya.

The Pakatan Harapan government introduced the moratorium on death penalty executions in July 2018 in order to make way for abolishment of the death penalty, but the collapse of the administration in 2020 caused the draft laws to take a backseat.

Wan Junaidi said that amending the laws in favour of abolishment of the death penalty would not work retrospectively, which would still leave death row inmates hanging.

He reportedly said that more time was needed to resolve these issues before the submission of any draft proposals to Cabinet for approval of abolishing executions.

“The moratorium remains as long as the government hasn’t decided on the abolition of the death sentence,” he reportedly said in assurance.

He rejected the suggestion that a special panel should be set up to investigate these cases of death row inmates, asking: “What power does the panel have to review these cases when they were already decided by the court?”

Parliament Special Select Committee (SSC) on Fundamental Liberties and Human Rights member Charles Santiago told The Star that the issue is not on their agenda at the moment because the SSC have been looking at the forced labour issue.

“It is unfortunate the issue of the mandatory death penalty was left aside.

“It caused debate among netizens who questioned the fate of those on death row here,” the Klang MP added.

He said he will raise the issue with the SSC next month.

Despite the moratorium, legislation carrying the death penalty remain on the books and courts have continued to sentence defendants to death.

The abolishment of the mandatory death penalty has been thrust into the limelight by Singapore’s recent execution of Malaysian Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, who smuggled 42 grammes of heroin into the city-state.