Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar should
explain why Malaysia sided with the the US Bush Administration by not voting
for the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in the
by Lim Kit Siang
Monday): Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid
Albar should explain why Malaysia sided with the United States Bush
Administration by not voting for a new anti-torture treaty, the Optional
Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel or
Unusual Treatments, in the General Assembly last Wednesday (18th December
The Optional Protocol was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 127 in
favour, 4 against, and 42 abstentions.
The Protocol will allow independent international and national experts to
conduct regular visits to places of detention within States Parties. The aim
of these visits will be to assess the treatment of persons deprived of their
liberty and their conditions of detention and make concrete recommendations
for improvement. States Parties will be required to co-operate with the
visiting mechanisms and to take steps to implement their recommendations.
The Protocol represents an innovative approach within the UN human rights
system by focusing upon preventive rather than retroactive measures. It also
establishes, for the first time in an international human rights instrument,
a complementary inter-relationship between preventive efforts at the
international and national level.
The United States was the lead opponent of the Protocol, voting against it
together with Nigeria, Palau and Marshall Islands. However, 18 countries
were not present at all for the vote, including Iraq, Iran and North Korea -
the three members of President George W Bush's so-called axis of evil.
Malaysia's abstention in the vote with 41 other countries is doubly shameful
firstly, as three other Southeast Asian countries, viz. Indonesia, Cambodia
and East Timor, voted for it; and secondly Israel, which had originally
voted against the protocol in a meeting on November 8, voted for it this
Although Malaysia abstained while US voted against the Protocol, Malaysia's
abstention is supportive of the US opposition on this important and
innovative human rights measure.
Malaysia's failure to vote for the Protocol is a blot on the human rights
record of the country on the international stage. Although the Protocol had
been 10 years in the making, Malaysia should have given serious
consideration to support its passage by voting for it in order to
demonstrate the country's sensitivity and awareness that in crisis
situations as in the post-September 11 world, the rights of people deprived
of their liberty are the first to deteriorate and the greater need for a new
international mechanism under the protocol to safeguard the human rights of
all persons deprived of their liberty.
As the Optional Protocol has received cross-regional support from a majority
of States and is designed to assist rather than condemn States, DAP calls on
the Malaysian Government to take a policy decision to ratify the Optional
Protocol when it opens for signature from 1 January 2003. The Protocol will
enter into force upon the 20th ratification.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National