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Welcome remarks by Lim Kit Siang at the second day of the Asia-Pacific Working Group of the Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the ICC on the Rule of Law jointly organised by Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and Malaysian Parliament on Thursday, 10th March 2011 at 9am: 

Call for action plan by ASEAN MPs to secure ratification of Rome Statute by majority of ASEAN nations on 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the International Criminal Court on July 2, 2012

It is said “All Roads Lead to Rome”. In the past two days, the road from Rome leads to Kuala Lumpur and I want to add to the voices of welcome expressed yesterday by the hosts to the distinguished foreign guests and participants to this consultation, and hope that you are fully enjoying the Malaysian hospitality imbibing the Malaysian sights, sounds and smells!

This however had been a long road from Rome to Kuala Lumpur - not only in distance but in time.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted on 17th July 1998 at a conference attended by 160 states, 33 international organisations and a total of 236 NGOs - with 120 votes cast in favour, only seven against, with 21 abstentions.

In order to enter into force, the Rome Statute had to be ratified by 60 states. This target was achieved in a relatively short period of some three years between the first ratification (Senegal, 2nd February 1999) and the last (Cambodia, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ireland, Niger, Jordan and Slovakia on 11th April 2002).

When the world’s first permanent criminal court started work in The Hague on 1st July 2002 with authority over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the number of countries which had ratified the Rome Statute had reached 74.

On that historic day for human rigthts, international justice and the rule of law, I had issued a statement calling on the Malaysian government to ratify the Rome Statute and like-minded Malaysians have been working on this cause until we are here today some nine years later for the present consultation.

I had not raised this issue in the Malaysian Parliament in 2002, as both M. Kulasegaran, the secretary of PGA organising committee, and I had lost in the 1999 general elections and not re-elected to the Tenth Malaysian Parliament.

But when we were both returned to the 11th Parliament in 2004, I asked Kula to take special responsibility for the subject of the ICC, and this is one of the genesis of the present ICC consultation in Kuala Lumpur.

Kula not only had to educate himself but even the Foreign Ministry at the time on the ICC. When he spoke in Parliament calling for the ratification of the ICC during the committee stage of the budget debate in October 2004, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Foreign Ministry was totally nonplussed and was unable to respond as he did not know whether Malaysia was a signatory to the ICC.

There has been quite a sea change as we have now the Minister in charge of law and parliamentary affairs Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz personally espousing the cause of Malaysia ratifying the Rome Statute, making the commitment at the 6th Consultative Assembly of PGA on ICC in Kampala on 27 - 28 May 2010 that “Malaysia cannot fail in its duty to stand with the rest of the world in ending impunity” as well as urging Asian countries to “stand in the forefront of this endeavour to transform the ‘culture of impunity’ into a ‘culture of responsibility’.

Although the Minister had not honoured his word in Kampala in May last year that an ICC accession bill would be tabled in the Malaysian Parliament upon his return, we are encouraged by his continuing positive support for the cause, as testified by his role as PGA Malaysia Organising Chairman of this ICC consultation and his speech and media conference statement at the opening ceremony yesterday.

Although Nazri had missed presenting the ICC accession bill to the Malaysian Parliament last year, Malaysian and world parliamentarians expect him to honour his commitment in the current meeting of Malaysian Parliament which is to sit till the first week of April.

Or is Nazri facing insuperable obstacles to get government and Cabinet support for the country ratifying the Rome Statute on the ICC?

This morning we have with us the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to deliver an opening address. Every participant is looking forward to hear from him as according to the grapevine, he holds the key to the question of Malaysia’s ratification of the Rome Statute on the ICC. Will he bring good news to this consultation?

Let me express the hope that the PGA consultation on ICC in Kuala Lumpur would set in motion a chain reaction for ratification of the Rome Statute by Asian/Pacific and in particular ASEAN nations.

Asia-Pacific and ASEAN are greatly under-represented in the international architecture of the ICC system.

ASEAN nations have committed themselves to uphold human rights, international justice and the rule of law in the ASEAN Charter.

I commend for your consideration the timely need for an action plan by ASEAN MPs to secure ratification of Rome Statute by the majority of ASEAN nations to mark the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the International Criminal Court on July 1, 2002 - i.e. by July 1, 2012 in a period of the next 14 months.

So far, only one ASEAN nation, Cambodia has ratified the ICC. On February 28 this year, President Aquino of Philippines signed the Instrument of Ratification of the Rome Statute and has asked the Philippines Senate for its concurrence.

With the impending ratification of the ICC by Malaysia, unless indicated otherwise by the Attorney-General, the challenge of securing the majority of the ASEAN nations to ratify the ICC in the next 14 months to mark the tenth anniversary of the coming into force of the ICC is within reach, do-able and a worthy fruit of this ICC consultation in KL to ASEAN MPs, the PGA and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. (CICC).

At this important juncture of history, when there is a greater appreciation of the role of ICC in the protection of human rights and international justice against crimes against humanity, like the unprecedented unanimous UN Security Council resolution on Libya to refer the Gadafi massacres to the ICC, ASEAN must be in the forefront to establish the universality of the ICC.

In conclusion, let us admit that the ICC has undoubtedly many weaknesses and failings - and the Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM and Visiting Professor at USM, Prof Shad Faruqi has written eloquently on 10 such defects in the Star newspaper yesterday. And these weaknesses and failings of ICC need to be addressed.

But as Shad Faruqi rightly concluded after applying his scapel to critique the ICC:

“Despite many reservations, it would be folly not to join hands with this historic institution of international criminal justice. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’.”

May this PGA consultation in KL light more candles to end the darkness of gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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