AG acknowledges failure to persuade Rulers on Rome Statute

AG Tommy Thomas (fifth from left) was among panellists at the Malaysia and the Rome Statute Forum.

KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said he failed to persuade the Conference of Rulers to agree to the accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

During a question-and-answer session at the Malaysia and the Rome Statute Forum, where he was one of the panellists, Thomas said he spent 45 minutes explaining the legal position at an informal session of the Conference of Rulers.

He said it was disappointing that he, as the only lawyer representing the government, was not given the opportunity to debate with the four law professors who had submitted a memorandum to the Conference of Rulers last April 2.

The professors had listed the negative implications to the monarchy if the government had acceded to the Rome Statute.

Among them was that the Agong may be prosecuted at the ICC due to him being the head of the armed forces.

The four professors named were Rahmat Mohamad, Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

Thomas said if the professors and he were in a room, there would have been a better dialogue, with each rebutting the other’s viewpoints.

“If I had heard the arguments of the other four, I would have had the chance to comment on them. Likewise, the professors would have a chance to comment on mine.

“That opportunity did not happen at the Conference of Rulers,” he said, adding that he did not know whether the group of four professors went to face the Rulers before or after him.

He was responding to a question from former Federal Territory Umno Youth chief Mohd Razlan Rafii, who was present in the audience, on why the AG could not convince the Conference of Rulers, which instead chose to side with the explanations provided by the four professors.

The Rome Statute provided for the setting up of the ICC.

In March, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government had no choice but to quit the treaty, following criticism from the Johor palace as well as some parties who said it would undermine Malaysia’s royal institution.

Ratification would have entailed making changes to Malaysian law to conform with the requirements of the Rome Statute, which allows prosecution of those who commit international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, such as enforced disappearance of individuals by a state or agents of the state.

The ratification was to have come into effect on June 1.