More progress needed on human rights front



LETTER | The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) participated in the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 14, during which the council adopted the report made during the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where Malaysia’s human rights record and progress had been scrutinised. 

The government, in response to the review, has accepted 184 of 268 recommendations, while taking note of the remaining 84.

This is an encouraging step forward, although Suhakam believes that further efforts could be made to accept more recommendations, particularly of those related to the accession of the six remaining core human rights treaties and the withdrawal of all reservations to existing treaties. 

This is particularly true with regards to the 1951 International Convention on Refugees, the ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the raising of the minimum marriage age to 18 years old, which the government had committed to nationally and internationally.

However, Suhakam remains disappointed in the government’s decision not to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), and would like to emphasise that it is the right of all peoples to exist without having to fear mistreatment or discrimination on the basis of their race. 

This is particularly true in a country as diverse and multicultural as Malaysia, where such protections are especially necessary to prevent violations of dignity and justice. The government should pave the way for ongoing dialogues and educate the public on equality and elimination of racial discrimination instead of succumbing to public pressure.

Suhakam is also alarmed by several developments in Malaysia, such as the decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty only, despite the opportunity to do a complete and crosscutting abolishment across all laws and several pronouncements indicating this intention, as well as the recent police investigation into the organisers of the Women’s March for sedition and illegal assembly, despite the fact that the government had announced that these were draconian laws intended to be repealed.

These actions are concerning as they seem to indicate a regression in the commitment to advance and promote human rights for all Malaysians, as well as a lack of buy-in on matters related to human rights by enforcement authorities, particularly given the promises made by the government during the UPR to improve Malaysia’s human rights record.

Suhakam continues to advocate for accession to the remaining human rights treaties, and strongly urges the government to follow through on its promises to abolish the death penalty once and for all, and to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and the Sedition Act 1948 which are a threat to freedom of expression. 

Suhakam urges the government to take a more firm and effective approach in creating awareness of these issues and addressing them through appropriate mechanisms, such as through legislation, law reform, capacity building, education and training across all sectors. 

Suhakam stands ready to advise and assist the government in these efforts in its capacity as the country's national human rights institute. 

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