Human rights principles universal, not open for negotiation — Amnesty International

AUGUST 18 — Amnesty International Malaysia views with concern remarks made by Prime Minister Najib Razak that human rights in Malaysia should not be defined according to universal standards, but instead, according to the Islamic context and shariah principles.

"We seek to remind Prime Minister Najib that Malaysia has already subscribed to the spirit, substance and norms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) when Malaysia became a member of the United Nations in 1957. The principles of the UDHR are universally accepted principles of customary and international human rights law. By virtue of their universality, these principles take precedence over faiths so as to ascribe a sense of equality among all persons.

"The remarks seem to suggest that the standard and principles of human rights remain open for negotiation. They are not," Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said.

Article 2 of the UDHR expressly provides for the universality of rights and freedoms without regard for religion, while Article 18 provides that every individual has the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Evolving concepts of international human rights law provide for the rights, and protection of, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities around the world while abuses related to sexual orientation or gender can infringe other fundamental principles of the UDHR, including the right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 5), arbitrary detention due to one’s identity or beliefs (Article 9) and basic rights of due process. 

"The desire to combat extremist or violent ideologies must not be done at the expense of fundamental, universal human rights, including those outlined above," Shamini said.

"Sadly, the Prime Minister’s remarks today represent a disappointing throwback to a bygone era. As Malaysia’s human rights record continues to come in for strong criticism, from restrictions of religious freedom, to clampdowns of troubling allegations of 'sedition', the Prime Minister must instead champion the progressive, pluralistic spirit he has previously outlined, and acknowledge and agree to uphold the provisions contained in the UDHR," Shamini said. 

Amnesty International Malaysia urges Malaysia to sign on to related human rights treaties which together constitute the international bill of human rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC), along with their two Optional Protocols.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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