• Aidila Razak | 12:41PM Apr 25, 2014
  • Malaysia should adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) if it wants to be a member of the United Nations (UN), the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said.

    "If you don't like it, then don't join the UN, but we join the UN because that is the way of the world.

    "The UDHR is not a legal requirement but if we do not take steps (to adhere) to the 30 (rights), you'll be pushed by your colleagues," Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said.

    Referring to the Universal Periodic Review process, he also said that out of 232 recommendations given to Malaysia, the country had only fully accepted 113, and not 150 as reported.

    The figure was recognised as 150 due to diplomatic negotiations but this was after stiff opposition by some in Geneva, who viewed that Malaysia had not truly accepted the recommendations.

    "(The final figure was 150) as it was only because of the diplomatic process, as they did not want to offend Malaysia so much," he said.

    Hasmy was responding to a question on whether Malaysia's human rights standards have improved in 2013 compared to the year before, at a press conference on Suhakam's annual report 2013.

    According to Hasmy, the standards have "gone up but on paper in terms of ascensions (to conventions), we have not done much".

    He said that some conventions are as old as 50 years, including conventions against torture, but Malaysia still refuses to accede to them for various reasons.

    "If we talk about being developed in all senses of the word, then it includes human rights.

    "How would our leaders feel if they attend an international meeting including on human rights and are not about to say this or that and can only keep mum and look down?

    "They won't be able to look people in the eye because we have not done that (uphold human rights)," he added.

    'Rights not just about religion, LGBT'

    Hasmy said the government's reasoning that some conventions cannot be acceded due to religion does not hold water as reservations can be made.

    He added that Malaysia's understanding of human rights is also "patchy" with some communities insisting that human rights only pertain to freedom of religion and sexuality rights.

    Malaysia has only acceded to three out of nine core UN human rights treaties.

    According to the annual report, Suhakam has engaged multiple stakeholders to push for the accession of four treaties with variable results. They are:

    o The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

    o The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);

    o The International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; (ICERD); and

    o The International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CAT)

    Suhakam deputy chairperson Khaw Lake Tee, in presenting the annual report, said that the ICERD is crucial in multiracial and multireligous Malaysia to ensure there is no discrimination.

    She added that not acceding to a convention against torture implies that the state endorses the practice.

    "It would seem a very logical thing to accede (to the CAT). Does it imply that we support torture, cruel and inhuman treatment?" she asked.