Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Malaysia giving lame excuses to avoid signing Rome Statute of ICC

Hazlan Zakaria
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is reluctant to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) ostensibly to protect the sovereignty of the monarchy, but critics said there are other reasons which the government is embarrassed to admit.

For one, Malaysia's sole ICC counsel Datuk N Sivananthan believes that the country’s current laxness in human rights is the real reason it is shying away from signing the Rome Statute international judicial treaty.

"The problem is that it adds pressure [on the government] not only to pay lip service but to take care of human rights," Sivananthan was quoted as saying at a Bar Council forum on the Rome Statute and the ICC recently.

He reportedly described the current dilemma as Putrajaya "catering to the domestic situation" versus it having to fulfil international expectations of its political standing as a moderate and progressive country.

The Rome Statute, which created the ICC, established its jurisdiction for four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

But the caveat is, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute such crimes when nation states are "unable" or "unwilling" to do so.

Currently, 122 countries have ratified the statute.
In explaining why Malaysia had not ratified the treaty, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri reportedly said: "The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state rulers are the symbols of state sovereignty and this rare and remaining institution needs to be safeguarded as they lead back to the Malacca Sultanate."
To this, Sivananthan stressed that the ICC will not interfere if the domestic courts were able to deal with cases of monarchs and state rulers.

"We have special courts [for the monarchy] and as such, as long as the domestic courts deal with the cases, the ICC will not be able to step in."

The government's view, however, is that such assurances are not enough for the moment to protect the sovereignty of the rulers for whom Parliament legislated a special court so as to allow cases to be heard against individuals in the monarchy.

But the government's argument seems different when it comes to Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which is currently being negotiated. Here it is insisting that the TPPA will not interfere with Malaysia’s sovereign right.

"There is no regulation in the TPPA that can prevent the government from using, maintaining or enforcing domestic policies to defend the interests of the country," said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed in June.

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, he said there was no provision in the TPPA particularly in the much-criticised investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that could threaten the sovereignty of the country.

TPPA, he argued, does not rob the country's sovereignty as it does not restrict the government from regulating or taking steps to protect the nation's rights and sovereignty.

Critics, locally and internationally, have warned that the TPPA-investor dispute mechanism can limit what nations can do to enforce domestic policies if it causes losses to investors.

Cases cited were Australia and Mexico which had to pay billions to foreign investors for enforcing domestic policies to protect the health and safety of local citizens but that has affected foreign profits; some critics said this is a direct infringement on national sovereignty.

Trade unions, consumer groups and the opposition have accused the government as pandering to the US which is behind the TPPA and selling our sovereignty to foreign investors who can effect, if not dictate, domestic policies through the dispute mechanism, once TPPA is signed.

~ The Ant Daily

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