Set up regional criminal court — Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow


Source: NST Online

W ITH regard to the inhuman treatment, barbaric persecution and alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community in Myanmar, it is time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to strongly consider creating or establishing a criminal court at the regional level to protect the interests of its 650 million people and to guarantee their human rights.

Having such a court at the Asean level is crucial as it can be a legislative body to monitor the conduct of all 10 member states. It should also be allowed to carry out criminal prosecution on governments or individuals that breach international human rights’ conventions and norms against their own people or those in the region.

The functions and powers of such a court can follow the model adopted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

ICC has four principal organs, namely the presidency, the judicial division, the office of the prosecutor and the registry. The president is the most senior judge chosen by peers in the judicial division, which hears cases before the court. The office of the prosecutor is headed by the prosecutor, who investigates crimes and initiates proceedings before the judicial division.

The registry is headed by the registrar and is tasked with managing all the administrative functions of ICC, including the headquarters, detention unit and public defence office. Though the above suggestion seems or sounds simple to many, we have to be realistic in the sense that it will take a lot of time, energy and even money to turn it into reality. Most importantly, it needs the commitment of the 10 Asean members to agree to create or establish the special court. It will also require major amendments to the current Asean Charter, agreements, protocols and Instruments or even the creation of a new charter to create or establish such a special court in the region.

Though the suggestion is alluring in theory, it will send a clear signal to the governments in the region that mass killing and persecution must end. They must respect the laws and rights of the people and their actions will not be forgotten without them facing legal consequences or responsibility. It is just a matter of time before the suggestion becomes a reality.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,  Senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri Sembilan