G25: Allow public discussion of Rome Statute before final decision

Protesters stating their stand against the government’s decision to accede the Rome Statute near the Istana Pasir Pelangi entrance in Johor Baru March 22, 2019. — Picture courtesy of the Kulai Youth Council
Protesters stating their stand against the government’s decision to accede the Rome Statute near the Istana Pasir Pelangi entrance in Johor Baru March 22, 2019. — Picture courtesy of the Kulai Youth Council

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — Former civil servants group G25 have urged Putrajaya to allow the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be discussed and debated publicly before bringing the matter to Parliament for a final decision in the spirit of parliamentary democracy.

Acknowledging that the democratic process was never easy but a dynamic or vibrant process full of challenges, G25 said that experience in other countries have shown that the public will come to accept the final decision all layers of opinions have been consulted through open dialogues and debates.

“So that when the time is right, and after the country has a much better understanding of the Treaty, the matter can be brought up to parliament for a final decision.

“It is based on the will of the people as reflected by their elected representatives on whether to accede to, or reject the Treaty, and to abide by that decision,” it said in a statement here.

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.

Later in his announcement, Dr Mahathir himself conceded that the withdrawal was not because the Cabinet felt negatively about the decision, blaming instead “confusion created by one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people.”

Pointing out that there will always be divided opinions on any major new policy initiative, the majority must then accept the decision after it has spoken through a parliamentary process and that it was understandable for Dr Mahathir to be upset at those responsible for spreading confusion to mislead the public.

The group also expressed disappointment that the government yielded to pressure from dissenting groups and decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute immediately after it had acceded to it.

“This is the second time that the government has done a U-turn, the first being the withdrawal from its decision to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of

Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

“This is troubling because it creates the impression that Malaysia is ruled by racial and religious sentiments, not by universal standards of justice. It also brings into question the new government’s commitment to reforms,” it said.

Explaining further, G25 said the ICC was empowered to institute proceedings against individuals for the international crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression when a country was unable or unwilling to charge its nationals for any of the abovementioned crimes under the Statute.

“In other words, the ICC is a court of last resort.

“We cannot understand why there are concerns that the Rome Statute will place our Sultans, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam at risk of being subjected to international law as they are constitutional monarchs who rule on the advice of the government,” it said.

The group clarified that if any of the monarchs was responsible for a serious crime, they will be brought to justice under the national law as there was no need to refer the matter to the ICC as the royal families have no immunity from criminal charges.

Citing former countries like Rwanda and countries which made up the former Yugoslavia, it said that genocides carried out by the countries’ rulers were exposed following trials in the international court of justice.

“If our political leaders or royals commit crimes against humanity on a barbaric scale, and no action is taken to make them accountable, then it is right and proper that the international community intervene to bring them to justice at the ICC so that the people will be spared from future acts of terror,” it said.

The decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute received backlash from human rights defenders, especially since it came just less than half a year after Putrajaya said it will not ratify anti-racial discrimination convention ICERD following pressure from the Malay-Muslim lobby.

Putrajaya now has until June to withdraw from ratifying the treaty, and Dr Mahathir said it will do so officially by then.

Over 100 countries are party to the ICC, that probes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression that are committed either in the territory of a state party or by a citizen of a state party.

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