PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 — Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat today noted the drop in the country's ranking last year in the US State Department's annual report on human trafficking, but said the courts are unable to weed out the problem completely owing to its constitutional role.

In her speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2022, Tengku Maimun said when such cases are presented before the courts, judges must decide according to the law, facts and evidence given.

“We are mindful of the drop in our international ranking. However, it is understood that in an adversarial system such as ours, the courts are, by constitutional design, incapable of taking active measures to weed out human trafficking.

“Even when such cases are before the courts, judges must decide them according to the law, the facts and evidence,” she added.

Tengku Maimun said that between 2018 and 2021, the number of human trafficking cases brought to courts appears not to deviate too much from year to year, adding that the trend appears to show a decline in the number of case registrations.

“The pandemic has greatly reduced movement in and out of the country and it is possible that the decline in the number of cases from 402 cases in 2020 to 333 cases in 2021 is attributable to the pandemic. However, the statistics show that there was also a slight decline between 2018 and 2019 well before the pandemic,” she said.

In July last year, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) urged the government to look into Malaysia’s downgrade to the lowest ranking in the closely watched annual report on human trafficking by the US State Department.

The US Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) downgraded Malaysia to Tier 3 — the lowest tier for failing to fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking in persons and not making significant efforts to ensure compliance, even considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.

Suhakam said while the government did take some initiative to address the issue such as identifying and providing protection services to victims of trafficking, it was still not enough and suggested a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) be conducted.

They also urged the government to release the report and findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on human trafficking camps and graves in Wang Kelian.

Suhakam said the government should also make public the report and recommendations of the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management and expedite implementation of the recommendations which considered issues of unethical, unhealthy, and unfair practices in the recruitment of foreign workers.