Framing Death Penalty Politics in Malaysia
The death penalty in Malaysia is a British colonial legacy that has undergone significant scrutiny in recent times. While the Malaysian Federal Constitution 1957 provides that ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law’, there are several criminal offences (including drug-related crimes) that impose the mandatory and discretionary death penalty. Using Benford and Snow’s framing processes, this paper reviews death penalty politics in Malaysia by analysing the rhetoric of abolitionists and retentionists. The abolitionists, comprising activist lawyers and non-government organisations, tend to use ‘human rights’ and ‘injustice’ frames, which humanise the ‘criminal’ and gain international support. The retentionists, such as victims’ families, use a ‘victims’ justice’ frame emphasising the ‘inhuman’ nature of violent crimes. In addition, the retentionist state shifts between ‘national security’ and ‘national development’ frames. This paper finds that death penalty politics in Malaysia is predominantly a politics of framing.
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