Malaysia has ‘back-pedalled’ on human rights reforms-Rights groups

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Kuala Lumpur – Human rights groups on Wednesday blasted the Malaysian government for failing to implement promised human rights reforms during its first year in power.

“A year ago, the Pakatan Harapan government took power, pledging to make Malaysia’s human rights record respected globally,’’ Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director said during a joint press conference with Amnesty International Malaysia.

Robertson said the government has done little to fulfil its promises, and has even back-pedalled on announced rights reforms.

Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan coalition government swept into power in 2018 on a progressive platform that pledged, among other things, full abolition of the death penalty.

The 1948 Sedition Act, which criminalised dissent deemed seditious and the Prevention of Crime Act, which allowed for indefinite detention without trial.

However, the government back-pedalled on the death penalty abolition, proposing that the death penalty not be made mandatory and instead exercised at the courts’ discretion.

An earlier moratorium placed on the Sedition Act and Prevention of Crime Act was also later lifted in response to domestic security concerns.

Executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia Shamini Kaliemuthu acknowledged that the government “had notable intentions to introduce reforms.”

“However, we see a lack of clear direction towards these reforms,’’ she added.

Both rights groups also pointed to Malaysia’s withdrawal from the ratification of the Rome Statute in March as a reversal of its accession to international human rights instruments.

The ratification, which granted Malaysia a member status in the International Criminal Court, was rescinded a month later, capitulating to backlash from the country’s monarchy that it would threaten the status of Malay royalty.

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