Ratify the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, says Sukaham

Komis (seen here with his wife and four children) have been allegedly extradited to Turkey. — Picture via Twitter/Global Rights Issues
Komis (seen here with his wife and four children) have been allegedly extradited to Turkey. — Picture via Twitter/Global Rights Issues

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has repeated its call for the government to ratify the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The human rights commission made this call following the recent deportation of Turkish asylum seekers despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) classifying them as “person(s) of concern” who are at risk of harm should they be forcibly returned to their country, which is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement.

”Not only to articulate minimum standards and regulations related to the status of refugees, but also treatment and determination of refugees so that they are able to live and work in Malaysia without persecution, but also to commit to the principle of non-refoulement provided by Article 33(1) of said convention.

”Even as we deliberate ratification of the Refugee Convention, natural justice demands for a political response that would ensure adherence to the principle of non-refoulement.

”We hope that the government will live up to the peoples’ hope for a nation that is compassionate and justice-based,” the commission said in a statement today.

Suhakam added that in Section 8 of the Malaysia’s Extradition Act 1992, there are prohibitions against extradition in certain circumstances, which includes that the warrant for his return has been made with the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.

”Those seeking asylum, particularly those who come to Malaysia, where refugee status is not recognised has limited available protection space.

”Asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons in Malaysia live in a state of vulnerability, which is exacerbated by the introduction
of increasingly restrictive policies that continue to narrow access to asylum,” the statement said.

It was reported yesterday that Turkish teacher Arif Komis and his family who are protected by the UNHCR have been taken by the police to be deported home for prosecution, according to several human rights activists.

Turkey-based human rights website Turkeypurge.com reportedly said it received an email from eyewitnesses claiming that Komis, his wife and four children were nabbed two nights ago from their home in Kuala Lumpur and are currently being held at an immigration centre near Putrajaya where they are being processed for deportation at the request of the Turkish government.

According to the news portal, Komis was working at a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, which Malaysia has deemed a terror group that has been accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Critics have since questioned whether it is acceptable for Malaysia to forcibly deport someone under UN protection.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pledged had previously his Pakatan Harapan government’s support for the Turkish government under Erdogan during a visit to the republic last month, and said Malaysia will continue to crack down on members of the Gulen group, also known as the Gulenist Terror Organisation (Feto).

Malaysia previously extradited wanted men by the Turkish government suspected of involvement with Feto, in what Ankara claimed is a group led by US-based exile preacher Fethullah Gulen.

In 2017, three Turkish men associated with Gulen — Turgay Karaman, İhsan Aslan and İsmet Özçelik — were deported from Malaysia to Turkey despite international warnings over the risk of torture.

Ozcelik, a Turkish academic, in July was given a jail sentence of almost 10 years without even being able to present his final defence. Karaman, a school principal, was also sentenced to six years in prison the same month.

Feto is gazetted as a terror group, but only by Turkey and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — of which Malaysia is a member. The UN objected and demanded that Turkey release the men and pay them compensation.

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