Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivers a speech during "The Future of Asia" conference in Tokyo on June 11, 2018. Photo: AFP/ Kazuhiro Nogi
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivers a speech during "The Future of Asia" conference in Tokyo on June 11, 2018. Photo: AFP/ Kazuhiro Nogi

A human-rights coalition including the Malaysian branch of Amnesty International has called on the new government of Malaysia to accede to the United Nations’ convention against torture.

The #ACT4CAT Coalition, which released a statement on the campaign on Tuesday to coincide with the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, noted that Malaysia had one of the world’s lowest rates of ratification or accession to global treaties.

The coalition noted that Malaysia had to date “only acceded to three of the nine core human-rights treaties – namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).”

The coalition takes its name from UNCAT, the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment.

“It is time Malaysia made a firm commitment towards eliminating torture by becoming a signatory to the UNCAT, as it remains one of only 26 United Nations member states that have yet to accede to the UNCAT as of June 19, 2018, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” the statement said.

Besides Amnesty International Malaysia, the coalition comprises the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Bar Council Malaysia, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

“The #ACT4CAT Campaign is a joint effort by the above-mentioned parties that was first started in 2015,” it said. “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, organizing 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 have been received by the #ACT4CAT Coalition.”

The coalition said it was calling on the new government that came to power in May under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to take three “positive steps” in this regard:

  1. Accede to the UNCAT within 12 months;
  2. 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
  3. 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,” the statement said.

“This includes establishing an independent external police oversight body to oversee complaints on police misconduct (such as an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission), and a code of practice relating to the arrest and detention of persons.

“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, and ensure that those against whom credible and admissible evidence is found are prosecuted in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness.”