Malaysia’s cabinet has moved to abolish the death penalty and halt all pending executions, a decision that has been hailed positively by international human rights groups and foreign diplomats.
Executions in Malaysia are mandatory for murder, kidnapping, treason, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and are carried out by hanging, a sad legacy left behind by British colonialism.
However now a bill on abolishing capital punishment is likely to be discussed by the Malaysian government when the parliament meets on Monday.
“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop,” Law Minister Liew Vui Keong was reported as saying.
Keong immediately called for a stay order on all executions until the decision was in effect, saying: “Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out.”
“We will inform the Pardons Board to look into various applications for convicts on the [death penalty] waiting list to either be commuted or released,” he said.
At the moment, more than 1,200 prisoners are waiting on death row in Malaysia.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo also reaffirmed that the parliament cabinet, which met on Wednesday, had agreed to officially end the death penalty.
The government decided to finally abolish capital punishment because the Malaysian public had shown they were against the death penalty, Gobind Singh Deo Gobind said.
“I hope the law will be amended soon,” he told AFP news agency.
Many Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, still implement capital punishment, while worldwide 142 countries have rejected it.
Amnesty International’s Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
“There is no time to waste — the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago.”
Amnesty International ranked Malaysia 10th in the implementation of the death penalty among the 23 countries that still carried out capital punishment in 2016.
Between 2007 and 2017, a total of 35 individuals were hanged, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.
Malaysian rights activists also celebrated the decision, claiming that there was never any evidence that death sentences deterred criminals from violent crimes.
Surendran, an activist with the Lawyers for Liberty rights group, said in his statement, “The death penalty is barbarous and unimaginably cruel.”
“Once the capital punishment is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral authority to fight for the lives of Malaysians facing death sentences abroad,” he added.