‘Enforced disappearance’ part of crimes listed under Rome Statute

Malaysia’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute means that culprits behind the abductions of two activists would no longer be subjected to the International Criminal Court. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Rome Statute which Malaysia withdrew from today has jurisdiction in cases of “enforced disappearance”, which was at the centre of the Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) damning findings following its inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of two activists.

The Rome Statute is an international agreement that created the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It complements existing laws in a country, where individuals who commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, can be prosecuted.

The Statute among others suggests that “enforced disappearance” could also fall under the category of crime against humanity if the victim is unaccounted for.

Article 8 of the Rome Statute on crimes against humanity lists “enforced disappearance” among 11 crimes.

It defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of, a state or a political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time”.

Malaysia’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, which it ratified on March 4, could mean that perpetrators of “enforced disappearance” cannot be subjected to prosecution in the ICC.

It comes just two days after Suhakam declared Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat victims of “enforced disappearances”, and blamed Bukit Aman’s Special Branch for their abductions based on testimonies from some 40 witnesses during its year-long inquiry.

It is the most damning finding involving the police, and pressure has since been mounting for action against top police officers including outgoing Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who headed the Special Branch when the abductions took place.

Koh was abducted on Feb 13, 2017, in Petaling Jaya, while Amri went missing on Nov 24, 2016, after leaving his home.

Koh’s abduction was caught on CCTV which showed what looked like professionally trained men stopping his car on a busy street. However, the police strongly denied suggestions that it was carried out by their men.