KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — Putrajaya has appointed Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the lawyer who represented the government in sodomy and anti-crossdressing cases, as Malaysia’s ambassador-at-large for human rights.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Umno lawyer’s appointment, which is for two years from 2016 to 2018, was part of the government’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.
“The appointment of YBhg. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is a manifestation of the government of Malaysia’s firm commitment to enhance engagement in addressing human rights issues with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations (CSOs), academia, government agencies and international organisations on human rights issues,” said the ministry in a statement.
Shafee was the previous Malaysian representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) from 2009 to 2015.
He also served as a commissioner for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) from 2004 to 2010.
Shafee had led the prosecution in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial that saw the PKR de facto leader sentenced in February last year to five years’ jail, as anal sex remains illegal in Malaysia.
He also represented the Negri Sembilan state government and other applicants in their challenge to the Court of Appeal ruling that held as unconstitutional the state Shariah law prohibiting Muslim men from dressing as women. The Federal Court then overturned last October the appellate court’s landmark decision in the suit mounted by three trans-women.