Stand firm for your independence, Suhakam urges judiciary

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail.

KUALA LUMPUR: The judiciary should be steadfast in maintaining its independence as it is best suited to ensure checks and balances and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Razali Ismail added that the interpretations and decisions of the courts would set a precedence and, therefore, have far reaching implications on the advancement of human rights in the country.

He also noted the importance of training enforcement staff and even students on human rights and freedoms, adding that the education ministry had agreed to include human rights modules in school textbooks.

Razali said this at the opening of a judicial colloquium titled “Applying international human rights principles/norms in judicial processes” at a hotel here attended by judges and those in the legal field. It is supported by the judiciary and the United Nations in Malaysia.

He was glad that the judiciary was increasingly standing up, citing the case of one S Balamurugan who died while in police custody last year. He noted that the magistrate in the case had instructed the police to get Balamurugan medical attention, a basic human right.

He was referring to the case where the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission found that the police department was responsible for the death of Balamurugan under its custody in February last year and that the police had failed to follow an order by the magistrate to release Balamurugan, after a request to remand him was rejected.

Razali also cited the 2010 case of Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia where the Federal Court, in considering the restrictions on Article 10 on the right to freedom of association, reaffirmed that “…the provisions of the constitution, in particular the fundamental liberties guaranteed under Part II, must be generously interpreted and that a prismatic approach to interpretation must be adopted”.

Razali said Suhakam looked up to the “wisdom of the courts” to make human rights part and parcel of the judicial process.

He also told those present that Suhakam had received the green light from the ministry of education to include human rights modules in school textbooks.

“In addition, we will also work with the ministry of education to develop human rights training modules that will be taught at the various teacher education institutes all over Malaysia. Suhakam has also engaged with a number of universities in Malaysia through memorandums of understanding to introduce human rights subjects and courses.

“In the near future, we hope to see other training institutes and academies like the police academy, Intan (National Institute of Public Administration) and ILKAP (Judicial and Legal Training Institute) offer more human rights courses that takes into consideration the standards set internationally.”

Although Suhakam had always worked closely with the police to provide human rights training, he admitted, they had a long way to go to change the mindset of enforcement officers in the way they approached and addressed the issue of public order while respecting human rights.

“But we have seen a significant shift in their reception towards Suhakam and the issue of human rights in general. In fact, we have established a partnership with the Training Division of the Royal Malaysia Police to provide a series of trainings for the directors of the Criminal Investigation Department at state level, together with a high-level seminar for chief police officers that will include the inspector-general of police himself.”