Extending diplomatic immunity to a diplomatic attache accused of sexual assault and burglary sends the signal that such immunity is a license to commit crime.
Saying this in a statement yesterday, NGO Lawyers for Liberty's executive director Eric Paulsen (right) said that extending such immunity jeopardises Malaysia-New Zealand ties.
Further, he said, such "abuse" could also undermine ties with other nations as Malaysia "is not able to guarantee that its diplomats will be able to respect the laws" of the host state.
As such, the NGO urged the government to extradite Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, who is defence assistant staff at the Wellington consulate, immediately and not just try him in military court in Malaysia.
Not just a discipline breach
"Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and appalled that the Malaysian government has asserted diplomatic immunity to protect Rizalman from what is obviously a serious case of sexual assault and burglary, acts of which are unconnected with his diplomatic role.
"We remind the Malaysian government that diplomatic immunity is essential for diplomats to work without harassment in a foreign state, but it is not a licence to commit crimes and certainly not to be used in the present case," he said.
He also said that Rizalman (left), should not just be court-martialed as suggested by the Foreign Ministry as he is not just accused of discipline breach.
"(It) is preposterous as this is not a disciplinary issue but serious criminal offences that have been allegedly perpetrated against a woman.
"Further, the alleged crimes were committed in New Zealand and obviously, the most convenient forum to try the crime would be in New Zealand and it would be absurd and extremely burdensome to get all the witnesses and evidence to be brought to Malaysia," he said.