NHRAP should be totally rewritten — Proham

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Source: Malaysiakini

By Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari & Denison Jayasooria,
The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)

The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) calls for a total rewrite of the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) to ensure that it is consistent with global human rights standards.

Further, Proham calls on political parties in GE14 to declare their commitment to human rights.

Proham is greatly disappointed with the Malaysian government for its lacklustre commitment to human rights as reflected in its formulation of the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) as mandated by the Vienna Convention and subsequently suggested by Suhakam in 2001 and also recommended by the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) in 2009 and 2013.

Despite taking over five years to draw up, the NHRAP as currently formulated falls short of the current global human rights standard due to but obviously not limited to the following reasons:

Firstly, the statement in the NHRAP, “UDHR tidak sepatutnya dijadikan satu-satu rujukan untuk memahami hak assasi manusia di dunia. Sebaliknya, instrument-instrumen lain khususnya CDHRI (Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam) juga perlu dijadikan rujukan primer oleh negara-negara Islam” is a clear attempt to downplay the universality of human rights but barely justified with a brief reference to universality versus cultural relativism.

The foundations of the global position on human rights is the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

All member states accept this as it is now part of the UN Charter and the foundation upon which all other human rights declarations and conventions are built upon such as the Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on Economic and Social Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of which the latter three have been ratified by Malaysia.

Second, while the NHRAP states that it is consistent with the Federal Constitution, it has, however, to a certain extent limited its application to syariah law and the syariah courts; which as per the Federal Constitution is a matter for each state and only applicable to Muslims only.

The term universal in the human rights language is applicable to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or race or gender. Therefore, human rights law is for all and not for one religious community.

In the Malaysian context these laws must be consistent with the Federal Constitution.

Thirdly, in the action plan we note that the ratification of UN conventions such as ICCPR, ICESCR, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) are all listed under long-term measures taking between five to ten years.

The formulation of NHRAP took over five years and hence, these conventions ought to have been studied, reviewed and recommended for ratification.

They ought not to be listed under long-term measures especially since the ratification of these UN conventions were already recommended by the UN community in 2009 and 2013 UPR process.

Proham, therefore, concludes that the NHRAP has downplayed Malaysian’s standing in the global community on human rights matters with a very weak political commitment to UN global human rights standards.

This is an unfortunate position after being in the UN since 1957 as a member and also having been a member of the Human Rights Council and Security Council.

Therefore, Proham calls on the post-GE14 government to withdraw the NHRAP as currently formulated and constitute a new body together with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to rewrite the NHRAP to one which is consistent with the UN Handbook on NHRAP and the Federal Constitution, before the November 2018 UPR in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Proham also calls on all political parties and candidates in GE14 to make a commitment to global human rights standards based on the Federal Constitution and the UDHR.

The writers are Proham chairperson and exco member respectively.