Malaysia’s Rome Statute Saga

Malaysia’s Rome Statute Saga

Rome Statute is an international treaty that came into being on 17 July 1998 and enforced on 1 July 2002.

This treaty established International Criminal Court which focuses on four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based international criminal court, with the objective of ending impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes known to the international community.

On March 4, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah signed the Instrument of Accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

However due to opposition mainly from the Johor royal house, Malaysia would be withdrawing from the statute.

Wisma Putra confirmed that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Feb 15, 2019 was informed by Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah of the Cabinet’s decision to accede to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad too had previously written to the acting Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Nazrin Shah on Dec 26 last year, informing the latter of the Cabinet’s decision on the matter.

The decision received mixed reactions from the ground, with many expressing concerns on ICC’s impact on rulers’ power and Malay privileges.

On March 10, Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim tweeted that the government had failed to consult the Conference of Rulers when it agreed to accede to the Rome Statute , and that the government had undermined the rulers’ position.

On March 23, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar accused Putrajaya of violating the Federal Constitution by signing the Rome Statute.

Sultan Ibrahim said that the Rome Statute, along with the attempt to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), had touched on the monarchy, Malay privileges, and the sanctity of Islam.

“Any party that touches the rights and powers of a ruler or state government is breaking the law and can be considered traitors.

“The action of the Federal Government to ratify Icerd and sign the Rome Statute is an action that is contradictory to the Federal Constitution because it touches on the power of the rulers and the special status of the Malays as well as the sanctity of Islam in the country,” he said.

Owing to the objections, Dr Mahathir announced that Malaysia would be withdrawing from the statute four days ago.

Former diplomat Noor Farida Ariffin dismissed the fears on the grounds that the ratification of the treaty will not affect the position of the country’s constitutional monarch, in the “unlikely event our soldiers commit mass killings or the country commits aggression”.

She said even though the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the supreme commander of the armed forces, he is shielded by virtue of being a nominal head as a constitutional monarch, with no executive powers.

“The Agong does not give direct commands to them (the army) and he gets his advice from the prime minister. (And) I don’t think our Agong will ever order our armed forces to commit mass killings.”

Noor Farida said the claims and arguments of those against the Rome Statute were “totally ridiculous” to begin with.

Meanwhile in an online poll conducted by The Leaders Online so far noticed that the opinion of the non-Malays was not included on the discussion of regarding the withdrawal of Rome Statute.

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