Putrajaya learnt nothing from ICERD episode, say groups after Rome Statute U-turn

Groups opposed to the ICERD said ratifying the treaty would undermine the special position of the Malays and Bumiputeras, among others.

PETALING JAYA: More than 20 organisations have taken the government to task for quitting a treaty that forms the basis of the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the move contrasts with Putrajaya’s strong position on state crimes and genocide perpetrated in other countries.

“The withdrawal of Malaysia, a country that has strongly stood in solidarity with the sufferings of minorities in countries like Myanmar, Bosnia and Palestine from the ICC, rings hollow to Malaysia’s condemnation towards the atrocities against the Rohingya as we do not have a moral positioning and international instruments to even suggest that a crime against humanity has occurred,” said a joint statement by 22 rights groups including those representing Orang Asli concerns, women, migrants as well as environmentalists and university professors.

On Friday, Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced Malaysia’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC, saying the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had come under pressure from certain quarters following the decision to ratify the treaty last month.

This comes after the Johor palace openly questioned the treaty, saying it could undermine the Malay rulers who could be made subject to external jurisdiction.

The 22 groups said the ICC is “the final defensive line” for the victims of genocide and war crimes, and questioned Putrajaya for “easily giving in to the voices of vested interests”.

“It is unbelievable and morally despicable that any individual or group would oppose and put a stop to this noble endeavour,” they said, adding that the government had been making “U-turns” on issues of human rights.

“Despite having the government’s machinery at its disposal, the PH government decided to surrender the aspirations of a New Malaysia to provocations spelled out by immature parties instead of disseminating the correct narrative to the people,” it added.

The Rome Statute is the second international treaty Malaysia has refused to sign since PH came to power.

Last year, the government announced it would not sign the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) after a storm of protest from Malay and right-wing groups.

The 22 groups said Putrajaya had failed to take lessons from the ICERD controversy as it was slow in responding to the arguments against the Rome Statute.

“There should not be another retraction of ratifications, laws and policies due to prejudicial religious and racial politics,” they said.