KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — Malaysia’s human rights record will come under close scrutiny tonight during the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with several concerned members expected to take apart the country’s electoral reform moves and policies on the treatment of sexual minority groups here.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Slovenia have already submitted their advance questions for Putrajaya in the UPR.
“Does the Malaysian Government have any plans for electoral reform, noting statements by some domestic observers that the 13th General Election held in May 2013 was ‘partially free and not fair’?” asked the UK.
It was referring to the joint report by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs and the Centre for Public Policy Studies released in May, which came to that conclusion.
“Will the Malaysian government commit to full and ongoing consultation with opposition political parties and civil society groups in the design of any independent, bi-partisan parliamentary committee to oversee the Election Commission, and in any other reforms to the electoral process?” asked the US.
In May, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional had clung to victory in a divisive general elections, which saw opposition Pakatan Rakyat taking to the streets to protest against alleged voting fraud.
The two countries also put into question Putrajaya’s commitment in protecting the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which they said are especially vulnerable to violence and discrimination.
“Certain actions by the Malaysian government have increased the LGBT community’s vulnerability, including sponsoring a play that appears intended to belittle the LGBT community, hosting seminars on the dangers of the LGBT lifestyle, and sending boys judged to exhibit effeminate tendencies to boot camp to be ‘rehabilitated’” said the US.
“Will the government be supporting the LGBT community to become a fully accepted part of a unified 1Malaysia vision?” asked the Netherlands, referring to the inclusivity concept made popular by Najib.
Local Islamic authority, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department had however said in its weekly Friday sermon last week that complaints of human rights abuses against Malaysia are not genuine, and are part of a masquerade to push the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) agenda to undermine Islam.
In November last year, Putrajaya had revealed that Najib had objected to the inclusion of LGBT rights when signing ASEAN’s first human rights charter recently, saying Malaysia could not accept principles that go against the order of human nature.
Malaysia will also be asked to ratify and accede to several global human rights protocols, such as the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Malaysia first came under the UPR review on February 2009, and consequently accepted 62 of the 103 recommendations issued by the UPR working group.
Held every four and a half years, the UPR is a UNHRC mechanism that was established in 2007 to improve the treatment of human rights in all 193 UN member states. Malaysia is currently a member of UNHRC, the second time after a term in 2009.
The process involves a three-hour interactive dialogue, where UNHRC members will question Malaysia based on reports prepared by the government, UN agencies, and the stakeholders’ report—which summarises the report of 28 NGOs both national and international.
The Coalition of Malaysian NGO in the UPR process had submitted its 22-page report, touching on issues such as the administration of justice; freedom of religion, expression and participation; rights to work, health and education; indigenous and migrants’ rights; and discrimination involving sexual orientation and race.