The government of Malaysia has decided to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and halt all the ongoing executions. This is such a rare move that has been hailed by rights groups.

Over 1,200 people are currently on death row in Malaysia, which makes hanging by death as punishment for a wide range of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, treason and acts of terror.

The Law Minister Liew Vui Keong announced on Wednesday that the Cabinet had decided to abolish the death penalty and that amendments to laws with capital punishment were expected to be tabled when Parliament resumes Monday.

Liew and other high officials couldn’t be immediately reached on Thursday for more questions.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the move would be a major advance but urged the government to “completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions.” It said the death penalty has been a “terrible stain” on Malaysia’s human rights record, and death row prisoners often have to wait years for their appeals to be processed.

Amnesty secretary said, “there is no time to waste, the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago. He added, that 142 countries worldwide have rejected capital punishment.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance won a stunning election upset on May 9, ousting a scandal-tainted coalition in the first change of government since independence from Britain in 1957. Its promises included eradicating corruption and bolstering human rights in Malaysia.

Lawyers for Liberty praised the government’s decision, saying the death penalty is ridiculous and absurd as it has never been proven to deter serious crime. N. Surendran said, the new government has shown that “it is a force for moral good and an example for the region and the world.”

Surendran also asked the government not to forget the hundreds of Malaysians who are also wasted on death row in Singapore and other countries.

“We call upon the government to vigorously speak up for our citizens facing death in distant shores. Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad,” he said in a statement. “The death penalty is abhorrent, and we must try and save our countrymen and women from judicial murder abroad.”

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