Agong up to speed on Rome Statute, instructs Wisma Putra to clear the air

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (3rd left) meets Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah March 12, 2019. — Picture courtesy of Wisma Putra
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (3rd left) meets Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah March 12, 2019. — Picture courtesy of Wisma Putra

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said he has met Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah yesterday to update the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Malaysia’s acceding the Rome Statute on March 4.

Saifuddin said the Agong has decreed him to dispel any misinformation regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute, including the claim that the King will be exposed to the prosecution.

“I take note the worry of some parties that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be exposed to criminal prosecution in the ICC.

“This is a wrong perception and made without basic understanding in laws and the Constitution,” he said in a press statement.

Saifuddin stressed that the Agong cannot be held responsible towards the four core international crimes covered by the statute: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

“The legal responsibility for the declaration of war and its implementation rests with the prime minister and the Cabinet,” he said.

The minister also said he has informed the Agong that the Constitution does not need to be amended to accede to the statute, and would only require substantive legal and procedural amendments.

“The Agong will not be personally affected after Malaysia becomes a signatory to the ICC,” he added.

Saifuddin also explained that ratifying the statute does not require the agreement of the Conference of Rulers, since it does not fall under the nine issues stipulated under Articles 159(5) and 38(4) of the Constitution.

Based on Article 80(1) of the Constitution, read together with Article 39 and Article 74, any ratification of international instruments involving foreign affairs falls under the executive powers of Putrajaya.

Despite that, Saifuddin said the Cabinet will still inform the Agong of the decision in respect of the principles of Constitutional Monarchy.

Recently, Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has questioned Putrajaya’s ratification of the Rome Statute, claiming it would affect the Agong and accused the government of bypassing the Conference of Rulers.

In response, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismissed the statement made by Tunku Ismail as being his personal opinion, saying the prince is not an elected representative.

Established in 2002, the ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court, with the objective to end impunity against the perpetrators of the four most serious crimes of concern to the international community.