Muslim countries also pressing Malaysia to do more for human rights, says lawyer

Apart from Western nations, Muslim countries also want Malaysia to protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and to do more for freedom of expression and assembly by signing on to more United Nations conventions on human rights, a Malaysian lawyer has revealed.

Bar Council human rights committee member Andrew Khoo (pic, top left) said the message to Malaysia from countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria is that these conventions do not threaten the position of Islam in Malaysia.

The international calls to Malaysia were revealed in a list of recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia’s human rights record at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on October 24, said Khoo who attended the review.

He said the recommendations from Muslims countries and several African and Asian nations refuted the claims made by local Muslim groups that the review of Malaysia’s human rights record is a “Western, Christian” agenda.

“Malaysia has signed up to only three of the nine major human rights treaties. Compared to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, which has signed up to five or six of them.

“So it’s not just Western countries that are making these recommendations. Every recommendation is important… Malaysia cannot take for granted that it is doing well in certain areas and that it can ignore other aspects of human rights,” Khoo told The Malaysian

Insider after a meeting last night with local human rights group PROHAM to discuss the UPR report.

PROHAM is a human rights group made of ex-human rights commissioners such as Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria.

Of late, a group of Malaysian Muslim NGOs have attacked the UPR process as a threat to Malaysian sovereignty and the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution.

The group has claimed that recommendations made by a coalition of local human rights groups to the UPR were a campaign backed by Western powers to undermine Islam in Malaysia.

But Khoo said that in the UPR, Muslim countries also made recommendations to Malaysia to improve its human rights record.

These recommendations included that Malaysia sign treaties to protect the rights of minorities, migrant workers, the disabled and refugees, to end torture, and to allow special rapporteurs to come and assess the country’s human rights situation.

The meeting last night was to review, analyse and chart the way forward for the promotion of human rights awareness in Malaysia.

The recommendations said Khoo, made up the bulk or 20.7% of a total of 232 stated in the UPR.

About 104 countries participated in the UPR which sees each country commenting on each other’s human rights record.

Khoo said Malaysia’s record on civil rights was also tarnished when other countries noted how Putrajaya backtracked on plans to end detention without trial that culminated in the passing of the Prevention of Crime Act 2013.

Critics have derided the PCA as being a revised version of the Internal Security Act 1948 which the Najib administration had repealed last year.

“We had talked to several countries and they said they had to rework their statements commending Malaysia’s repeal of ISA. This was because we passed the PCA…” added Khoo.