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Closer scrutiny of human rights with Asean Charter

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 Oct 2008: The Asean Charter’s emphasis on human rights could result in a closer scrutiny of the conditions in Malaysia, said Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

He said this is because the charter adheres to democratic values, promotion and protection of human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

“Among the matters that may be subject to scrutiny are Malaysia’s preventive detention laws and their implementation.

“It is said that such scrutiny will promote greater transparency in the implementation of such laws and that it is tandem with human rights principles and norms,” Abdul Gani said in his speech on The Legal Analysis of the Impact of the Asean Charter at the 21st Lawasia Conference today.

Abdul Gani added that issues relating to promotion and protection of rights of children, women, disabled persons and the rights of migrant workers, especially women migrant workers would also be of concern to Malaysia.

The Asean Charter is the constitution of the regional grouping and has been ratified by all 10 member states. It also sets out rules, transforms Asean into a legal entity and envisages a single free trade area by 2015.

Abdul Gani also said the charter calls for the establishment of an Asean human rights body to further promote and protect human rights.

“I am aware of the fact that another working group, called the High Level Panel, had been established to draft the terms of reference for the Asean human rights body.

“It is still at the preliminary stage of its work but it had taken the positive step of having dialogue sessions with the relevant stakeholders, including the national human rights institutions within Asean as well as the various human rights civil societies in the region,” said Abdul Gani.

He also noted that the Asean members had agreed not to set up a court of human rights as in the case of the European Union, the African Union and Organisation of American States.

He said each member had different human rights priorities, where most member states might give priority to economic, social and cultural rights as opposed to civil and political rights.

When asked to comment on Abdul Gani’s speech, human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz, who was at the conference, said the charter would not necessarily end up pressuring the government to review or repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows detention without trial.

He said the ISA is under the Federal Constitution and the charter did not require its member states to amend their constitution.

“ISA is meant to be used internally, locally, so it does not affect the Asean members.

“The government may not be pressured into reviewing the act unless the act is used against any citizens of the Asean members,” he told The Nut Graph.


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