The recent report quoting a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tang Quoqiang that the Chinese Government was “actively considering” signing two international human rights covenants is good news and is welcomed by all who are concerned about the promotion of human rights in all parts of the world.
The time has also come for the Malaysian Government to ratify the two United Nations covenants on human rights - the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. The past five decades have witnessed the enrichment and enlargement of the human rights concept from the traditional civil and political freedoms to also emphasise economic, social and cultural rights, without which civil rights would have no material basis.
This was why when in 1966, the General Assembly translated the moral commitments of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into two legally binding international obligations, it adopted two separate Covenants.
Malaysia had voted in the General Assembly in support of both Covenants in 1966, but in the past 31 years, the Government had refused to ratify or accede to them to create legal obligations binding on it.
For instance, in ratifying the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Malaysian Government would be binding itself to accept the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee which is empowered to consider complaints of human rights violations under the covenant.
The Malaysian Government should take a policy decision to ratify the two United Nations covenants on human rights to show that Malaysia’s human rights record can withstand international scrutiny and set a good international example to all other nations who have not yet ratified the two human rights covenants.