KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s new government said it will abolish the death penalty for all crimes and halt all pending executions, a rare move against capital punishment in Asia that human rights groups hailed Thursday as a major advance.
More than 1,200 people are on death row in Malaysia, which mandates hanging as punishment for a wide range of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping, and acts of terror.
Law Minister Liew Vui Keong announced Wednesday that the Cabinet had agreed to abolish the death penalty, and that amendments to laws with capital punishment were expected to be presented when Parliament resumes Monday.
Communications Minister Gobind Singh Deo on Thursday confirmed the Cabinet’s decision.
‘‘This is part of our election pledge and also in line with the move away from capital punishment in the rest of the world,’’ he said.
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.