As an independent statutory body empowered to safeguard human rights and obliged to enlighten the public as primary stakeholders in the promotion and protection of human rights, Suhakam has the following observations to make:
(a) Caning and/or lashing in any setting violates the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment under international law. Suhakam also emphasises that all forms of torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment are absolutely prohibited by customary international law and international treaties that Malaysia has acceded to, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
(b) The universal human right to equality before the law protects all persons from discrimination in matters concerning laws and justice. Suhakam stands firm in its position that everyone must be treated equally under all laws including religious laws, believing that equality is a necessary aspect of a just and fair society.
(c) Suhakam is concerned with the proposal to impose such severe and grossly disproportionate punishments through the amendments. The proposed amendments have far reaching consequences to all even if not applicable to all Malaysians. Malaysians accordingly have the right to question whether the rights to liberty and to dignity are being protected adequately with the proposed amendments, and Suhakam underscores that the concept of proportionality is one of the fundamental principles of sentencing, grounded on the premise that, to be just, a sentence must be of a length and type.
Suhakam underlines that any punishment in law must have appropriate checks and balances, be in line with universally accepted human rights standards and take into account the sentiments of all other groups of persons and religions in the matrix of society. Parliament must accordingly ensure that all laws passed by it are reasonable, equitable and proportionate; as well as progressive and fair.
* Media statement released by Tan Sri Razali Ismail, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on May 16, 2017.