Malaysian government must accede to UN Convention against Torture

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On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture commemorated annually on 26 June, we, the #ACT4CAT Coalition — comprising the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Bar Council Malaysia, Amnesty International Malaysia, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) — together reiterate our strong commitment to the fight against torture, express our solidarity with all victims of torture and their families, and call on the new government of Malaysia to accede to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol.

The #ACT4CAT Campaign is a joint effort by the above parties that was first started in 2015. The main objective of the campaign is to advocate Malaysia’s accession to the UNCAT and promote greater awareness of the need to prevent, and ultimately eliminate, all acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in Malaysia.

Over the course of three years, the #ACT4CAT Coalition has carried out various activities including obtaining signatures from the public for petitions, organising awareness campaigns and events, and inviting UNCAT committee member Abdelwahab Hani to dialogue with key stakeholders in July 2017. As of May 2018, 1,804 signed petitions were received by the #ACT4CAT Coalition.

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The #ACT4CAT Coalition calls upon the new government to take these positive steps as a starting point towards ending torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in Malaysia:

  • Accede to the UNCAT within 12 months;
  • Invite the UN special rapporteur on torture to visit Malaysia and to assess the situation related to torture and ill-treatment in the country; and
  • Adopt Suhakam’s recommendations and findings on custodial deaths.

The #ACT4CAT Coalition further urges the new government to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial and policy measures to uphold the fundamental right to personal dignity and security of all individuals, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This includes establishing an independent external police oversight body to oversee complaints about police misconduct (such as an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission) and a code of practice relating to the arrest and detention of individuals.

The new government must also ensure prompt and effective investigations by independent and impartial bodies into all complaints and reports of torture and other ill-treatment by police and any other officials. It must also ensure that those against whom credible and admissible evidence is found are prosecuted in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness.

Malaysia has one of the lowest rates of ratification/accession to treaties, having only acceded to three of the nine core human rights treaties — namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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It is time Malaysia made a firm commitment towards eliminating torture by becoming a signatory to UNCAT, as it remains one of only 26 United Nations member states that have not yet accede to it as of 19 June 2018, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Source: The Malaysian Bar

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