KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights lawyer Roger Chan Weng Keng has urged the government to ratify the remaining six international human rights treaties immediately if it is serious about addressing human rights issues.
Chan, when met at the launch of the 20th Annual Human Rights Report for Malaysia 2017 today, said the people’s rights were not guaranteed until these treaties are ratified.
“The Pakatan Harapan (PH) promised human rights reforms. So, if they are serious, they must be a signatory to the remaining six international human rights treaties.
“There is no form of human rights protection if these treaties are not ratified,” warned Chan.
Among the treaties he was referring to are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The other treaties are the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951.
“Right now, in the Federal Constitution, Article 149 allows for any form of security laws to be passed.
“This was how former prime minister Najib Razak was able to push through the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012, Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015, and the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) 1959.”
Chan also said although Najib had removed the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA), he had in return replaced it with the NSC, Pota, Poca and Sosma.
“He may have revoked a law which was created during the emergency period, but Article 149 gives very wide powers to introduce security laws which affect and violate human rights.
“This government may not abuse Article 149, but there is room for abuse by the next government that takes over.
“How are you going to ensure that Article 149 won’t be abused? Sign the international human rights treaties and see how they can be introduced into the Federal Constitution.”
Chan said the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government may have ratified three human rights treaties in the past, but they were ratified with reservations.
The country has only ratified three of the nine treaties since 1995 — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“All this talk about human rights law reforms are merely lip service if the PH government does not ratify the remaining six human rights treaties.”
In explaining Article 149, Chan said it was the reason for the infamous Internal Security Act 1960.
Laws such as the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 and Dangerous Drugs (Forfeiture of Property) Act were also conceived under the purview of Article 149.
Chan said Article 149 empowered Parliament to make laws against subversion, regardless of whether an Emergency had been proclaimed.
Laws that have been made are valid even if they violate the constitutional guarantee of fundamental liberties under Article 5 (liberty of the person), Article 9 (prohibition of banishment and freedom of movement), and Article 10 (freedom of speech, assembly and association).
“That is why we need to sign those human rights treaties to safeguard the people’s rights. As long as Article 149 is around, there is no guarantee that human rights will not be violated.”