A delegation from Suaram under the accreditation of Aliran attended a Human Rights Council session in Geneva and highlighted the rights abuses in the country, writes Nalini Elumalai.
In the lead up to the 13th General Election and Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review, a delegation from Suaram (Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd) under the accreditation of Aliran (Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara) attended the 22nd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland last week.
Suaram met with representatives of a number of UN Special Rapporteurs, as well as various permanent missions to the UN in Geneva and NGOs to highlight and make recommendations on Malaysia’s poor human rights record.
The group submitted an oral statement as part of the Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders urging the Malaysian Government to allow the Special Rapporteur Ms Margaret Sekaggya to carry out an independent inquiry. The statement touched on the intensified threats against Bersih steering committee members, native rights defenders in East Malaysia, Lynas activists and the ongoing harassment and intimidation against Suaram.
The past year has seen intensified attacks against Malaysian human rights defenders, including Suaram and Bersih, despite internationally recognised benchmarks, such as the Paris Principles (1991). Suaram also met with a representative of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to provide further information.
The group also submitted an oral statement as part of the Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The statement highlighted a number of cases where freedom of religion was not respected, in relation to the ability of individuals to decide which faith they wished to practice. It also highlighted how children in Malaysia are often exposed to religious instruction against their will, citing the example of the Orang Asli children who were slapped by a teacher at a school in 2012 for not reciting the doa (Islamic prayer). It also covered the controversial “Allah” issue and the bureaucratic obstructions that non-Muslims often face when constructing a place of worship in Malaysia.
A Suaram representative in Geneva, Bala Chelliah said, “Participating at the HRC 22nd session highlights the gap between what is discussed and agreed at the Council meetings and the actual implementation of human rights best practices by member states including Malaysia. The ongoing persecution and harassment of Malaysia’s human rights defenders is a blatantly obvious example as is ignoring the rights of minorities and indigenous people.
“Malaysia has shown itself to be not serious in terms of adopting best international human rights norms and standards. They are also failing to engage meaningfully with civil society and NGOs in the lead up to Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Suaram, Aliran and our partner human rights NGOs will continue to establish a persistent and strong presence at the UN in order to push for better human rights and civil liberties in Malaysia and meaningful reform, rather than just government rhetoric.”
Suaram and Aliran urged the Malaysian Government to allow UN special rapporteurs including the Rapporteurs for freedom of religion, human rights defenders, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to visit Malaysia to conduct an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Malaysian Government.
Nalini Elumalai is executive director of human rights group Suaram