Category: Malaysia

Unconvincing plea for membership from Malaysia at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

Malaysia was formerly a member of the Council twice in the past and its last mandate ended in 2013. As an observer State, the Malaysian delegation could not vote on resolutions at this session. It could have, however, chosen to sponsor resolutions but refrained from doing so. It only co-sponsored one resolution on technical cooperation and capacity-building (A/HRC/33/L.18). Malaysia delivered six statements during this session including one to endorse the UPR report of Thailand, one on water sanitation and one during the General Debate on the High Commissioner’s update. Apart from this, Malaysia was part of statements by the OIC.

Under Item 6, Malaysia congratulated Thailand on accepting its recommendations, as well as for accepting most of the recommendations made by States. Malaysia was not mentioned specifically during the High Commissioner’s update. The Malaysian delegation, speaking under Item 2, stressed on the importance of moving away from the current trend of polarisation at the Council. Regarding the OHCHR, Malaysia called for equal attention to all States and for true geographical representation. It is also interesting to note that, despite the limited engagement of Malaysia on sensitive issues throughout the session, the Malaysian delegation advocated for a broader engagement between the States and the Office, and amongst States themselves.

Despite the dire state of human rights inside the country, particularly in relation to the freedoms of expression and association Malaysia had shown some interest in running for a human rights Council seat next year. This interest to become a member of the Council for a third time does not seem to have affected its limited engagement at the Council. It did not participate in the side event organised by International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), which served as a public discussion with candidates for the Human Rights Council to pledge for their election.

Country Profile: Malaysia

Introduction

Malaysia was a member of the Human Rights Council from 2006 to June 2009, and from June 2010 until the end of 2013. It is also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thematic Issues

Malaysia has sponsored a number of thematic resolutions on topics such as combating discrimination based on religion or belief, and combating defamation of religions. It has also sponsored a resolution on the right to development.

Freedom of Assembly and of Association

Malaysia has not actively engaged on the issue of freedom of assembly and of association. Restrictions on this right within the country, however, have been brought to the Council’s attention.

Freedom of Expression

Malaysia co-sponsored a resolution on freedom of opinion and expression in 2009. It also co-sponsored a resolution on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in 2011, and voted in favour of a similar resolution in 2008.

Human Rights Defenders

Malaysia has not actively supported resolutions on human rights defenders.

Country-Specific Issues

As a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Malaysia was a main sponsor of a resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar in 2015.

Although it initially voted against a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2008, Malaysia abstained from voting on similar resolutions in 2009 and 2011. Also in Asia, Malaysia abstained from voting on resolutions on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013.

Malaysia sponsored resolutions and voted in favour of multiple resolutions on Palestine between 2007 and 2014. It was also main sponsor of a resolution on the report of the commission of inquiry on Lebanon and voted in favour of a resolution on the grave situation of human rights in Lebanon caused by Israeli military operations in 2006.

Malaysia consistently abstained from voting on resolutions on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran between 2011 and 2013. It also abstained from voting on annual resolutions on Belarus between 2011 and 2013.

Malaysia has been more forthcoming with resolutions on technical assistance. It co-sponsored a resolution on assistance for Libya in the field of human rights in 2012 and on the resumption of the rights of membership of Libya in the Human Rights Council in 2011. Malaysia co-sponsored a resolution on technical assistance for Sudan in the field of human rights in 2012. It had voted against resolutions on the situation of human rights in the Sudan in 2009 and 2010. Malaysia co-sponsored two resolutions on technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights in September 2011 and February 2012. Malaysia consistently voted in favour of multiple resolutions on Syria between 2011 and 2013.

Universal Periodic Review

Malaysia went through the second cycle of its UPR in October 2013. Recommendations Malaysia received centred on international instruments, special procedures, racial discrimination, death penalty, religious freedom, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Under the freedom of opinion and expression, Malaysia received and noted two recommendations to repeal the Sedition Act.

As a recommending state, Malaysia’s recommendations have primarily focused on the rights of the child.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly in Malaysia thoroughly discussed at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

The report of Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, highlighted serious concerns on the crackdown on media in Malaysia. It stated that the Sedition Act of 1948 was used to arrest, detain and charge human rights defenders for exercising their lawful rights. FORUM-ASIA backed the concerns of the Special Rapporteur during the General Debate, linking the trend of one-party political systems to restrictions on freedom of assembly and association. In addition, FORUM-ASIA organised a side event to address the arbitrary restriction of movement of human rights activists who call for clean elections and denounce corruption within the government. The Special Rapporteur and Shashi Devan, a Malaysian human rights lawyer, were featured as panellists.

FORUM-ASIA also raised concerns with regard to freedom of expression in its statement delivered during the interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur David Kaye. It denounced the proposed amendments to the Multimedia Act (1998) introducing harsher registration and licensing requirements for online news providers and enforcement of blocking of websites as a mean to further restrict freedom of expression online. The Malaysian delegation previously addressed the right to freedom of expression during the General Debate on the High Commissioner’s update. Anticipating criticism and attempting to justify the restriction of this right Malaysia called for a “responsible” exercise of freedom of expression. The delegation reiterated a similar argument during the interactive dialogue on racial discrimination and expressed concerns over the use of information and communication technology by racist and extremist groups.

Malaysia was fairly active throughout the session, delivering a plethora of statements. Notable amongst those was the support of the adoption of, fellow ASEAN member, Singapore’s UPR report in which Malaysia suggested the favourable consideration of the recommendation to establish a NHRI.

Malaysia did not sponsor any resolutions during the session. Instead it focused on the co-sponsorship of five resolutions on various themes: youth and human rights (A/HRC/32/L.1), right to food (A/HRC/32/L.15), the Social Forum (A/HRC/32/L.17), right to peace (A/HRC/32/L.18) and family and disabilities (A/HRC/32/L.35).

Limitation of democratic space in Malaysia denounced at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

The space for civil society is steadily shrinking in Malaysia and this worrying development did not go unnoticed at the 31st session of the Council. The High Commissioner was the first to address the limitation of democratic space in the country during his oral update. He cited the ever-growing number of sedition charges issued against journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. The enactment of the Prevention of Terrorist Act and the National Security Council Act and the imprisonment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim were also mentioned as matters of grave concerns.

FORUM-ASIA echoed these sentiments, adding the blocking of online content and the cases of Adam Adli and Hishamuddin Rais to the list of concerns. It also called for the repealing of repressive laws such as the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act. On one instance, the Malaysian delegation took the floor to rejecting allegations of restrictions on freedoms and stating that democratic space was actually increasing. Apart from this intervention, Malaysia chose to speak about the fiftieth anniversary of Covenants, the migrant crisis in the context of the war in Syria, disabilities and albinism, violence against children and counter-terrorism. Malaysia denounced violent extremism and raised the issue multiple times. It also delivered statements to support the UPR adoption of Lebanon, Australia, Oman and Myanmar.

In its statement to Myanmar’s UPR, Malaysia called the State to end discrimination against the Rohingya. Malaysia was one of the main sponsors of a resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar in 2015.

Malaysia has been a member of the Council twice in the past, and its last mandate ended in 2013. Accordingly, the State could not vote on the proposed resolutions but it did co-sponsor resolutions on the right to food, the composition of staff of the OHCHR and on the enjoyment of cultural rights.