By Hariz Mohd | Malaysiakini

Malaysia had given away immunity for the country’s rulers when it signed the Genocide Convention in 1994, human rights lawyer Edmund Bon (above) disclosed today.

He told Malaysiakini that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) — which Putrajaya is withdrawing from — was just an extension of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Thus, he said, it was a “fallacy” to raise the argument that Malaysia’s signing of the Rome Statute would affect the immunity of the Malay Rulers.

“Malaysia signed the Genocide Convention in 1994 and the treaty says that all immunities are removed, including the immunities for the head of state and leaders.

“The convention gave the (member) country the power to prosecute genocide or the country can be prosecuted by an international tribunal because at that time the ICC had not yet been set up.

“So if Malaysia cannot prosecute genocide as we do not have laws that make genocide an offence, we have to go to an international tribunal,” he said when met after a seminar on the Rome Statute in Kuala Lumpur.

Bon was one of the panellists at the seminar jointly organised by the Coalition for the ICC (CICC), and the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights.

The Genocide Convention, or The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec 9, 1948, to prevent and punish acts of genocide during war and peace.

Bon added the Rome Statute was just a repeat and extension of the Genocide Convention by including more crimes and a more thorough law with a court structure.

Another panellist, the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo (below) also shared a similar sentiment.

He said by signing the Genocide Convention, Malaysia indicated that it supported the international justice system.

Andrew Khoo

“ICC is a continuation of that intention to ensure that we are a part of the international system of justice, so no one can run away, no one can hide.

“Not only people who commit genocide, but also (perpetrators of) war crimes would be brought to justice.

“The question is why is there a fuss now and the idea that what the government is doing is wrong or in violation of the constitution?” he said.

Khoo said the Federal Constitution had also been amended in 1993 where a mechanism was created to address the matter of legal action against the Malay rulers.

“When people say it (the Rome Statute) would impact upon the immunity of the Malay rulers, it becomes a strange issue as we changed the system 25 years ago.”