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Three immediate steps to improve human rights in keeping with Malaysia’s election for three years to the new UN Human Rights Council
by Lim Kit Siang
Under the new rules, all members of the United Nations must submit to reviews of their human rights records, with the 47 members of the council as the first to be scrutinized.
There are at least three immediate steps to improve human rights that must be taken in keeping with Malaysia’s election on the new UN Human Rights Council.
Firstly, the establishment of a First-World Suhakam with legislative amendments to ensure that it is not a “toothless tiger” in the promotion and protection of human rights as was the case in the past six years, as well as institutional changes such as the appointment of an independent search committee comprising MPs from the ruling and opposition parties and representatives from civil society groups to recommend appointments of Suhakam commissioners.
Secondly, the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights in the June meeting of Parliament, not only to address human rights concerns in the country but also to monitor Malaysia’s role as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the next three years.
Thirdly, Malaysia should welcome the visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, who complained in her latest annual report that she had “repeatedly indicated her interest” in visiting Malaysia but “regrets that the Government (of Malaysia) has given no positive response to her request”.
Hina Jilani founded the first women’s law firm in Pakistan in 1980, where a significant number of cases concern the violation of women's right to security of person, liberty and equality. As a defender of women’s rights in Pakistan, she had been threatened, vilified and shot at.
In her latest annual report on Malaysia for 2005, she expressed “significant concerns” on “reported abuses against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, constraints on the independence of the judiciary, limitation on the right to freedom of expression and most of all, the restrictive provisions contained in the Internal Security Act, which jeopardize respect for human rights and may hinder the work of human rights activists”.
She is concerned by the “limits on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly”. She said that “Although the situation in Malaysia has evolved” since the report of the former UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Abid Hussein on the mission to Malaysia in October 1998 (at the height of the Anwar reformasi movement), “she shares the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur, in particular those connected with the extent of the limitation on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the national legislation of Malaysia”.
Is it because of the adverse report of the UN Special Rapporteur Abid Hussein in his 1998 mission that the government has refused to approve a mission by Hina Jilani in her capacity as UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, despite her repeated requests?
I will meet the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz on Monday to discuss with him these three proposals for the enhancement of efforts to promote and protect human rights following Malaysia’s three-year election to the UN Human Rights Council.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman