Malaysian government criticized for International Criminal Court U-turn

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reacts during an interview n Langkawi, Malaysia, on March 28, 2019. (REUTERS/Feline Lim)
Updated 06 April 2019

Malaysian government criticized for International Criminal Court U-turn

  • Prime Minister Mahathir earlier said joiningthe ICC would have tno impact on the country's sovereignty
  • On Friday, Mahathir backtracked, citing attempts by unnamed parties to undermine his government

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been condemned for its U-turn on joining the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The government had said that signing the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, would have no impact on its sovereignty and that it was ready to ratify it.

But on Friday, in a surprise news conference, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the government was reneging on its decision to join the ICC. 

He claimed political maneuvering by certain interest groups had forced the government’s hand.

“The Cabinet made a decision to withdraw our ratification of the Statute of Rome. It is not because it is harmful to the country, but because of politics where people are easily misled by emotional claims that what this government is doing is against our own interest,” Mahathir said. 

“I see this as a way to blacken my image. They know they cannot oust me easily, so they have to paint a bleak picture of me.”

The 93-year old leader claimed the politicking was an attempt to undermine the government and his role as prime minister, but did not give further details.

Shahriman Lockman, a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia, expressed his disappointment.

“It would’ve put Malaysia in a stronger moral position to comment on numerous issues that it has long championed: Palestine, Rohingya. This has been a lost opportunity,” he told Arab News.

He said that those people objecting to Malaysia joining the ICC were implying that the country’s leaders would be in the ICC’s crosshairs.

“It is an absolute nonsense to say that it would somehow affect the position of members of the royalty, by virtue of them being ceremonial heads of the Malaysian Armed Forces and their constituent units. Ceremonial heads are precisely that — ceremonial.”

The decision to withdraw from the ICC by the Pakatan Harapan leadership represents another setback for rights in Malaysia.

It repealed the mandatory death penalty, rather than scrapping capital punishment entirely, and also withdrew from ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Lockman said the government’s latest about-turn could affect its reputation.

“Yes, it would call into question Malaysia’s consistency and ability to keep its word. We have done U-turns on various commitments that we previously made to the international community.”

Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said the country had turned its back on the commitment toward ratifying the Rome Statute despite assuring the international community it was committed to combating international crimes for global peace and security.

“Malaysia must reverse its decision and honor its accession to the Rome Statute. As Malaysia had previously said, the ICC is the only avenue for justice for the millions of victims of international crimes,” Kaliemuthu said.

The ICC serves as a global justice system against the most serious offenses such as genocide and war crimes.

If Malaysia follows through on its decision it would join other countries including the US, China, Russia, Qatar, Israel, and the Philippines that are not part of the ICC.




US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.