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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

11 February 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

· Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Malaysia this afternoon, during which 60 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Nigeria, following the review of the country on Monday, 9 February.

· Presenting the national report of Malaysia was TAN SRI RASTAM MOHAMAD ISA, Secretary-General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, who noted that the respect for human rights in Malaysia has been established taking into account the country’s character as a melting pot of various cultures, religions and ethnicities. History has shown that in Malaysia, the people have always held values of tolerance, harmony and mutual respect in the highest regard. However, the onset of colonialism brought with it the unfortunate practice of associating ethnicity with particular economic activities. Today, Malaysia was a robust democracy and was steadily charting a course towards achieving developed status. Malaysia’s efforts to secure the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for its people have been very much focused on achieving inter-racial harmony within the society, coupled with equitable socio-economic development while taking into account the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individual. The basis for the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia was enshrined in the Federal Constitution which remained the primary source of law in Malaysia. Malaysia believed in the importance of poverty eradication as a major effort for promoting and protecting human rights. For the past 35 years, Malaysia's poverty rates have declined dramatically. Since the early 1970s, Malaysia has reduced poverty among nearly half of the population (49.6 per cent) through the implementation of various specific poverty eradication programmes. To improve the quality of life and well being of the Malaysian population, the Government placed great emphasis in providing adequate, affordable and quality housing for the people.

Responding to questions submitted ahead of the review, the head of delegation noted that in an effort to further improve its human rights obligations, Malaysia set up an Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee has been active in deliberating on issues relating to human rights treaties and other international instruments, including the Rome Statute. The Coordinating Committee was established in the year 2000 and has the mandate to study and recommend Malaysia's accession to human rights treaties and compliance with treaties which Malaysia are a party to. On the issues of Special Procedures, Malaysia will remain open to the possibility of further discussions with the various Special Procedures on the proposed visits and was willing to consider such requests positively on the merit of each proposal. As to refugees and asylum seekers, Malaysia was not a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Notwithstanding this, Malaysia has complied with its international obligations to persons who have entered Malaysia claiming to be refugees and asylum seekers through special arrangements on humanitarian grounds. Malaysia adopted close cooperation and constructive engagement with UNHCR and has taken a flexible attitude, specifically by not prosecuting UNHCR card holders in court for their illegal stay.

On the issue of foreign workers, Malaysian laws provided adequate and reasonable legal protection to all foreign workers. Malaysia dealt with the flow of foreign workers on a bilateral basis with sending countries by executing legally binding instruments to regulate the entry and exit of foreign workers to Malaysia. The Government gave very serious attention to the issue of foreign workers which was evidenced by the establishment of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers and Immigrants chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. On the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Commission was entrusted with the power to inquire into complaints relating to the infringement of human rights and was also mandated to promote awareness of human rights through education. Several measures were being taken by the Government to ensure that SUHAKAM retained its status as a credible and respected national human rights institution. On the issue of the independence of the Judiciary, the speaker noted that the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), which was established on the principles of transparency and accountability, was entrusted with the core responsibility of identifying and recommending suitable candidates for judicial appointment and promotion based on clearly defined criteria. To deal with cases of corruption, it was noted, in response to another question, that the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was established to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of anti-corruption efforts as well as to increase public confidence in the independence and transparency of the Commission.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the active role played by Malaysia in ASEAN in the field of human rights; gains made in eradicating poverty over the years; increased economic prosperity and economic stability; advancements made in the field of education and the creation of the Education Development Master Plan; progress made in the heath sector; establishment of the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee and the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM); measures to combat violence against women and protect victims; efforts in working towards gender equality and advancing the status of women; efforts to fight corruption and the establishment of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission; strides made in the area of maternal health; and enacted legislation on human trafficking.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, efforts to bring down poverty levels; the progress achieved in the Education Development Master Plan; measures undertaken to face the spread of HIV/AIDS and level of international assistance in that regard; steps to uphold the rights of migrant workers, especially in view of the economic crisis; actions planned or taken to ensure that SUHAKAM complied with the Paris Principles; measurers taken to guarantee that SUHAKAM’s recommendations be taken in to account; plans for ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 1951 Convention on the status of Refugees and the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; efforts to protect the rights of minorities; the status of ratification of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities; and the steps taken to grant legal status to asylum seekers and refugees.

Other issues and questions raised pertained to the efforts to combat corruption and the activities of the Anti-Corruption Academy; the activities of the People’s Volunteer Corps; plans to abolish the provisions for detention without court proceedings for incommunicado detention; steps taken to safeguard and maintain traditional culture and values; whether a timetable had been set to withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; the follow up taken to the recommendations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on refugees and asylum seeking children; and measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To continue to spearhead progress towards gender equality and development for women; to step up efforts to enhance women’s participation at the decision-making level; to strengthen efforts to combat all acts of violence against women trafficking in women; to provide victims of domestic violence with access to legal remedies and bring perpetrators to justice; to develop and adopt national legislation and practices granting formerly trafficked and exploited women and children; to explore further ways and means aimed at improving and enhancing the welfare and protection of victims of child abuse; to withdraw reservations made to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to continue to cater to children with special needs; to pay special attention to the problems of children living and working in the streets; to outlaw corporal punishment; and to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol.

Other recommendations included: To continue to focus efforts on ensuring full protection of human rights for all vulnerable groups; to continue actions to further promoting the rights of disabled people; to ratify the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities; to ratify ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous Peoples and Tribes; to continue cooperation with civil society in capacity building in improving its peoples’ lives; to ensure that the SUHAKAM was in compliance with the Paris Principles; to ensure that an effective follow-up system for the recommendations of SUHAKAM was developed; to strengthen the independence of the SUHAKAM; to issue a standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; to allow more open discussion on freedom of religion; to consider undertaking a comprehensive study on the implications of the legal system of civil law and Shari’ah law; to undertake more effective measures to further improve the implementation of Shari’ah law in the country; and to take the necessary steps to ensure freedom of religion.

States also recommended that Malaysia continue judicial reforms, including by strengthening the independence of the Judiciary; abolish the death penalty and establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; publish official figures concerning executions and death sentences; outlaw the practice of torture; ratify the Convention against Torture; provide and improve training programmes on human rights for the judiciary, law enforcement personnel and lawyers; establish an impartial and independent police complaints commission in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on police reform; repeal or amend the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Public Order and Preventive Ordinance in accordance with international obligations; accede to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; review the Police Act to enhance the citizen’s ability to exercise the right to peacefully assembly; and adopt a law on the media to guarantee freedom of expression and the press.

Other recommendations included: To ensure sufficient housing for all citizens in particular in the lower income group; to strengthen the monitoring mechanisms at the federal and district level to ensure that the programmes on poverty eradication reached the intended target group; to abrogate or amend legislation that restricted fundamental freedoms in the name of national security or the economic life of the State; to share best practices on poverty reduction strategies; to encourage the participation of public and private sectors and NGOs in the efforts towards poverty eradication; to share with developing countries best practices in the field of education; and to share with the international community good practices with regard to health.

Another set of recommendations were: To enact legislation providing for the status determination and protection of asylum seekers, refugees and Stateless persons and revise immigration laws and procedures to distinguishing such persons from those termed irregular migrants; to end impunity for members of the Malaysian Volunteer Corps for acts of violence, corruption and the abuse of power against immigrants; to continue efforts to protect the rights of migrant workers; to develop with UNHCR an administrative framework to distinguish refugees and asylum seekers from irregular migrants and apply international standards for the treatment of foreign nationals; to provide adequate infrastructure to provide housing, registration of asylum seekers and refugees; to take further steps towards protecting human rights of migrant workers, refugees and their dependants including through the signature and ratification of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of Refugees; to accede to the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; and to ensure migrant workers were allowed access to legal remedies.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were China, Cuba, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, Qatar, Ukraine, Chile, Senegal, Canada, Djibouti, South Africa, France, Mexico, India, Germany and Italy.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Brunei Darussalam, Algeria, Israel, Nepal, Sudan, Bhutan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Morocco, Singapore, Australia, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Oman, Libya, Yemen, Turkey, Iran, Belgium, Sri Lanka, Finland, Kuwait, Chad, Tunisia, Belarus, the Holy See, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Palestine and Lithuania.

· The 31-person delegation of Malaysia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, the Ministry of Defense, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Education, the Sarawak State Government and the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Malaysia are Nicaragua, Qatar and Egypt.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Malaysia can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Nigeria: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Nigeria are Japan, Djibouti and Switzerland. Introducing the report SHINICHI KITAJIMA (Japan) said the review covered a wide array of human rights issues and produced a report containing 32 paragraphs of recommendations on which Nigeria will provide its response to the 11th session of the Human Rights Council in June. Representing the State under review, M. K. IBRAHIM, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, gave assurances that Nigeria would go through each recommendation carefully and in the spirit they were made. However, some of the recommendations enjoyed the support of the Government of Nigeria which has already started considering ways of implementing them. Elaboration of these recommendations, as stated, would be reported on at the June session.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Malaysia on Friday, 13 February.

 

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Friday, 13 February, at 3 p.m. it is scheduled to adopt the reports of Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan and Malaysia.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx. To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp.

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