Foreign minister accuses dissenting legal experts of intellectual dishonesty over Rome Statute

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah slammed several academics and lawyers for so-called ‘intellectual dishonesty’ after Putrajaya was forced to revert its ratification of the Rome Statute on Friday. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah slammed several academics and lawyers for so-called ‘intellectual dishonesty’ after Putrajaya was forced to revert its ratification of the Rome Statute on Friday. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah accused several academics and lawyers of using their reputation as legal experts to deliberately mislead the public over the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The foreign minister slammed those he left unnamed for so-called “intellectual dishonesty” after Putrajaya was forced to revert its ratification of the Statute on Friday citing political pressure from opponents who spread unnecessary fear and confusion in public.

“We know that we can have different views. For me that is common, not everyone has the same view on any given subject,” Saifuddin told Malay Mail and several other media outlets in an interview yesterday.

“The problem arises when there are some academics or lawyers or those viewed as experts... not that they don’t know what ICC is all about, but they manipulated facts.

“They fabricate what is not there, by inventing ‘what if’ scenarios or they negate what is there, or they overstretch the arguments,” he added.

Saifuddin said the confusion came despite the Cabinet’s repeated thorough explanation on the matter either in Parliament or to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Wisma Putra had also released a comprehensive four-page explanatory statement on the issue last month, after which the Agong then decreed the dispelling of any misinformation regarding the Statute, including the claim that the King will be exposed to prosecution.

Putrajaya also consulted legal and constitutional experts such as Attorney General Tommy Thomas and eminent professor emeritus Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi, and came to the conclusion that it had a solid and sound argument.

Saifuddin singled out the citing of a book titled Justice Denied: The Reality of the International Criminal Court by author David Hoile, who frequently accuses the ICC of scandals, corruption and racism.

Hoile himself has been accused and criticised of being an apologist and lobbyist for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who was indicted in 2014 by the ICC for ethnic cleansing, mass killing, rape, and pillage against non-Arabs in Darfur.

“I urge them to be honest and not use their wisdom to take advantage of the situation,” Saifuddin said.

“We all understand that the ICC issue is complex. We understand that some people need extra time to get it, that is natural.

“If you manipulate with the aim to cause confusion, misunderstanding... for me that is an abuse of knowledge,” the Pakatan Harapan (PH) secretariat chief added.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that Putrajaya will pull out of the Rome Statute, while warning that critics of the treaty had wanted to trigger a row between the country’s monarchy and the new government.

* A previous version of this story contained errors which have since been corrected.