Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Death penalty tops grouses against Malaysia at UN review
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — The call to abolish death sentences and protect the rights of the indigenous people were the top two recommendations given to Malaysia by most United Nations members at a human rights peer review yesterday.
Despite concerns by Muslim NGOs, issues involving freedom of religion and rights of the sexual minorities did not feature prominently along the three and a half-hour interactive review by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Majority of the countries which reviewed Malaysia’s human rights record in the Universal Periodic Review urged for it to implement a moratorium on capital punishment, with a view to abolish it.
Malaysia currently carries out death penalty as punishment to among others murder, drug trafficking, and offences against a King, including treason or “waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong”.
Most of the countries also urged Malaysia to end racial discrimination against its indigenous people, and also protecting the rights of migrants and refugees in the country.
The UN members also recommended for Malaysia to repeal the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and expressed their worry over the reintroduction of detention without trial in the newly passed Prevention of Crime Act.
Malaysia was also question over its reluctance to ratify and accede to international human rights protocol, chiefly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishmen, and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, Asean bloc nations gave their support to fellow member Malaysia, commending the country for its achievements in advancing the rights of women and providing healthcare and education to its citizens.
Neighbouring Indonesia however had called on Malaysia to protect the rights of migrant workers, as approximately 300,00 Indonesian citizens are employed as domestic helpers here.
This comes as Indonesia daily The Jakarta Globe had reported last month that 186 of Indonesian workers currently face the death penalty in Malaysia for various offences.
On the other hand, Iran had stressed the need to protect religious minorities, following alleged state-backed persecution against Shia followers in Malaysia.
Shia followers — also called Syiah — made up 90 to 95 per cent of Iran’s population, but remain the minority here, where only the Sunni sect of Islam is recognised.
Several countries have questioned Malaysia’s treatment of sexual minorities, with France, Germany and the Netherlands strongly urging Putrajaya to stop discriminating and criminalising the queer community.
Freedom of religion was also touched on by several nations, with Austria recommending freedom to change religion for Malaysians, even for Muslims.
The Attorney-General Chambers’ representative was made to defend the recent “Allah” row decision, explaining that any restriction on religion is preventive as it has the potential to disrupt public safety and order in Malaysia.
The Home Ministry, meanwhile, explained that over 75 per cent of death in custody cases in the country were due to health issues and suicides.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department denied any discrimination against women under Islamic laws, claiming that any allegations were unfounded.
Putrajaya also stressed that issues involving the sexual and religious minorities will be dealt with by taking into account local norms and context.
Malaysia first came under the UPR review on February 2009, and consequently accepted 62 of the 103 recommendations issued by the UPR working group.
Held every four and a half years, the UPR is a UNHRC mechanism that was established in 2007 to improve the treatment of human rights in all 193 UN member states. Malaysia is currently a member of UNHRC, the second time after a term in 2009. - Malay mail, 25/10/2013, Death penalty tops grouses against Malaysia at UN review