Framing death penalty politics in Malaysia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Death penalty
  • Framing processes
  • Human rights
  • Malaysia
  • Politics of framing

Cite this