Malaysia urged to ratify human rights treaties urgently

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia should ratify the remaining six of nine core international human rights treaties as soon as possible and not be left behind, a discussion heard.

The country has only ratified three of the nine treaties since 1995, namely the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Malaysia underwent the second United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review on Oct 24 where 80 of the 249 recommendations from member countries called for it to ratify the treaties as well as other conventions. Of the 80, 25% were recommendations from OIC states.

Malaysia will undergo its third UPR, a global review by its UN peers, in 2018.

Panellist and Human Rights Movement (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said human rights was for the good of all, adding that the argument that the country was not ready or laws needed to be amended should not be used as reasons.

“Ratifying the convention is committing to making those changes. One does not need to be perfect before signing.

“Malaysia has done well in other areas but we cannot go on not ratifying the treaties. It is embarrassing to be behind other countries in Asean and OIC which have ratified more treaties than us,” Dr Denison said at the discussion entitled ‘Human rights priorities for Malaysia beyond 2013 UPR to 2018’ organised by Proham and the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM).

The discussion was held in conjunction with Human Rights Day Tuesday.

Dr Denison suggested implementing a national human rights action plan; strengthening the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), including debating its reports in Parliament; and having firmer dialogue with civil society.

GMM chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who moderated the session, said the six major conventions, which included against racial discrimination; economic, social and cultural rights and torture, should be ratified by 2018 “if not earlier.”

“It puts us among the bottom 10 if we do not ratify more treaties. We are now ranked 187 out of 195 UN countries.

“Most countries have ratified four or more even in OIC nations,” said Saifuddin, adding that there should be more engagement between the stake holders and the Government.

“We have to take cognisance that not everyone will agree on everything on human rights, even if we do not agree, we should refrain from discriminating or demonising.”

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Michael Yeoh said Malaysia must play a bigger role in championing human rights on the international stage as well as take cognisance internally.

“We need to enhance human rights, strengthen Suhakam and give it enforcement powers as well as establish a human rights council at the highest level,” he said.

As chairman of Asean in 2015, he said, Malaysia could play an important role in making human rights a more prominent agenda within the nations.