National Human Rights Action Plan purely cosmetic

Published on  |  Modified on

LETTER | Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is not impressed by the cosmetic touches put forward in the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) launched by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak last week.

Its biggest failure is its omission of the human rights violations of the government thus far and in so doing, fails to bring forth the urgent reform needed to improve human rights in Malaysia.

The government of Malaysia would do well to remember that human rights are indivisible and interdependent.

Attempts to sideline specific rights in the guise of protecting and promoting other rights such as attempted by the NHRAP through its refusal to recognise and acknowledge core civil and political rights can only be described as another of the government of Malaysia’s attempt to deny human rights and hide the systemic violations of human rights in Malaysia.

The NHRAP as produced by the government of Malaysia has systematically failed to account for the rampant violations of the right to fair trial, the right to justice, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly that make headlines in Malaysia on a weekly basis.

Throughout its history, the Internal Security Act 1960 has led to the arbitrary detention of more than 10,000 individuals.

Under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) and other similar laws, Malaysia has witnessed the arbitrary detention and denial of the right to fair trial of more than 2,000 individuals within the short space of five years.

Notable cases such as those of Siti Noor Aishah continue to make a mockery of the criminal justice system with the practice of re-arrests under different ‘jurisdictions’ created by the concurrent application of Sosma and Poca.

Furthermore, the feeble attempt to ‘improve’ rights of detainees in lock-ups and prisons and the issue of torture and deaths in custody has been drafted in a vacuum with no references to the findings and developments in the coroner courts; the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).

Despite its repeated claim of “Smart”, which advocates for the action plan to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, not one of Suhakam and EAIC’s actionable recommendations for the prosecution of police officers involved in torture and violence in lockups was even mentioned.

The strategic plans for implementing CCTV and providing health check-ups are treated as a “game-changer” when it is already an inherent part of the current lock-up structure but have not been enforced in any systematic manner.

Despite earlier promises, the Sedition Act 1948 remains in the statute book to criminalise dissent in the country alongside with other repressive laws such as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The NHRAP clearly ignores the politically motivated prosecution of activists such as Adam Adli, Maria Chin and countless others. Independent media such as Malaysiakini have also not been spared from criminal action and prosecuted under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 just for reporting on a press conference.

The situation pertaining to refugees and victims of human trafficking (above) have also been left unattended in the NHRAP. While there are recommendations and action plan for refugees, there is no mention of any action plan for the government to recognise refugees and asylum seekers in line with the Refugee Convention.

Plans for addressing the issue of human trafficking is also non-existent in the NHRAP with no action plan for addressing the current failings in curbing human trafficking in Malaysia nor any action plan on a support system for victims of human trafficking.

Apart from the above-mentioned concerns on the human rights situation, the NHRAP also fails to clearly outline the ratification of core international human rights treaties such as:

  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
  • the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
  • the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),
  • the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT),
  • the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families,
  • the International convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CPED) and;
  • the Refugee Convention.

If the government of Malaysia genuinely wants to implement NHRAP and uphold and defend human rights in its policy-making, the government of Malaysia should provide Suhakam with the necessary resources to conduct an actual human rights action plan and not just a cosmetic plan that they hail as a National Human Rights Action Plan.

Suaram does not take seriously the NHRAP as championed by Najib and calls for all rights-minded Malaysian to be wary of the government’s attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Malaysians and to compromise our rights as provided for under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The writer is executive director, Suaram.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.