International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966

On 16 December 1966, the United Nations General Assembly, by 106 votes to none adopted the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966 under which each State Party undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within it’s territory and subject to it’s jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Among the rights recognized in the Covenant are the right of all peoples to self-determination; the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of civil and political rights; the right to life; protection from torture and from cruelty; inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; protection from slavery; the right to liberty and security of person; the right, when deprived of liberty, to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person; the right to liberty of movement within the territory of a State; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to hold opinions without interference; the right of peaceful assembly; the right to freedom of association; the right to protection of the family and children and the right for the protection of minorities.

Although the Covenant was opened for signature and ratification on Dec, 19, 1966 Malaysia, 11 years later has not ratified the Covenant although it had adopted it in the General Assembly.

I call on the Malaysian Government to make an unequivocal commitment to human rights by ratification of the International Covenant. Why is the Malaysian Government prepared to vote for its adoption in the General Assembly and yet not prepared to ratify it when the Covenant was open for signature since Dec 19,1966?

This shows that the Malaysian Government is not sincere about it’s verbal commitment to human rights. In fact, there are Ministers who talk glibly about human rights as a luxury which countries like Malaysia cannot afford. I say that countries or governments which are not concerned about human rights have ceased to be concerned about human beings.

The reason why the Malaysian Government is not prepared to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights is that the human rights record of Malaysia is a dismal one.

The Malaysian Government is prepared to vote for the Covenant in the General Assembly, which gives it favourable publicity but not prepared to ratify the Covenant, which provides for enforcement procedures to implement human rights of political and civil nature laid down in the Covenant.

Thus, Article 28 of the International Covenant of of Civil and Political Rights provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Committee consisting of 18 members, nationals of State Parties to the Covenant, who are persons of high moral character and have recognized competence in the field of human rights. The Committee is charged with the consideration of reports submitted by State Parties under Article 40 which binds the State Parties to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant and on the progress made in the Covenant for the State Parties concerned and thereafter whenever the Human Rights Committee so requests.

The Human Rights Committee is also empowered to consider complaints by a State Party to the Covenant, under Article 41, that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant. And under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee can consider complaints from individuals under certain conditions against State Parties for violation of the Covenant.

A quick review of the human right spelt out in the Covenant would show that if Malaysia ratifies the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights , there will be numerous complaints of violation of the Covenant which would have to be considered by the Human Rights Committee.

The most outstanding one, because of the recent national and international uproar, will be Article 6 (5) of the Covenant, which reads: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eight years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.”

A host of human rights violations would include the following:

Article 9: Right to liberty and security of person. This article provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention; and that anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

The Malaysian Government’s violation of this Article will flood the Human Rights Committee with work, which is a measure of the magnitude of the violation. Political critics and oppositions leaders who are committed to a constitutional, democratic struggle are detained without trial indefinitely –not because they pose a threat to the security of the country, but because they challenge the political base and strength of the ruling parties. This is why opposition leaders like Sdr. Kassim Ahmad, Professor Syed Husin Ali, Sdr. Chian Heng Kai (DAP Member Of Parliament for Batu Gajah), Sdr.Chan Kok Kit (DAP Assistant National Treasurer ) are detained in the Kamunting Detention Camp. Their crime is not that they oppose the country or people, but because they oppose the ruling party politicians.

Article 10: Right when deprived of liberty, to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. This right is violated everyday in the police lock-ups in the country, where persons arrested are sometimes subject to all sorts of brutalities and violence.

Article 12: The Right to Movement within the territory of a State. It is a disgrace and a violation of the Covenant that Malaysians cannot fully move within their own country. I had been banned Sabah, and twice refused entry into Sarawak. If Malaysia had signed the Covenant and the Optional Covenant, then the Malaysian Government would be called upon to perform the impossible of justifying why a Malaysian member of Parliament cannot freely move about in this own country.

Article 14: The Right to equality before the courts and tribunals. The Essential (Security Cases) Regulations is infringement of Article 14 (2) which provides that “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

Article 21: The Right to Peaceful Assembly. Restrictions are placed on the Political Opposition and critics on this Right to Peaceful Assembly, while double standards are applied where supporters of the ruling parties or ruling factions in the ruling parties are concerned.

A good case is the ban on public rallies in the case of the DAP and other Opposition parties, except in cases of by-elections, but in the case of Kelantan, the supporters of Dato Mphd. Nasir, the ‘besieged’ Menteri Besar of Kelantan who has the support of high officials in UMNO, are allowed to hold public rallies everyday despite the proclamation of curfews in the State.

How can the Malaysian Government justify the violation of this Article to the Human Rights Committee and it’s double-standard application?

The catalogue of violations of human rights and the Covenant of Political and Civil Rights will be endless.

Is this the reason why the Malaysian Government does not want to be put on the international dock to defend it’s violation of human rights?

This is not acceptable to Malaysians, who cherish human rights. The Malaysian Government should ratify the International Covenant of Civeil and Political Rights and should modify its laws and measures which deviate from the Covenant so that in Malaysia,human rights flourish as one of the basic rights of Malaysians.

Respect for human rights is a precondition of democracy and the rule of law. Where human beings in Malaysia have been reduced from their full human condition, then Parliament must act as the conscience of the nation to restore to them their full human rights.

We must seek continuously to broaden human rights in Malaysia and not to progressively curtail them.

I conclude with the plea that we should aim at the common standards of achievement of human rights for all peoples and all nations as laid down in the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, bearing in mind the warning in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that:

1. Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind; and

2. It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort rebellion against tranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by rule of law.

Mr.Speaker, Sir, I beg to move: “That this House resolves that the Malaysian Government should within a month of the passage of this motion, ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966 which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations by 106 votes to none on December 16, 1966.”

(Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat when moving a motion to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966 on October 26, 1977)