Suhakam's creative expansion of its human rights ambit and concerns to the
international arena on the Iraq war and calls for a similar vigorous and
robust approach to all domestic human rights issues and challenges
by Lim Kit Siang
The announcement by the Suhakam commissioner Datuk Hamdan Adnan that Suhakam
would be filing memorandums of protest against the invasion of Iraq at the
foreign missions of countries involved in the attack (The Star) must have
raised many eyebrows considering the provisions of the Human Rights
Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 "to set out the powers and functions of such
commission for the protection and promotion of human rights in Malaysia".
Strictly speaking, it could be argued that Suhakam would be acting outside
its statutory scope and jurisdiction in sending anti-war memorandums to the
United States Embassy, British and Australian High Commissions, but DAP
welcomes Suhakam's creative expansion of its human rights ambit and concerns
to the international arena on the illegal, unjust, immoral and unnecessary
US-led war on Iraq.
Hamdan's statement that "the war resulted in the mother of all human rights
- the right to live - being ignored and trampled on" should be endorsed by
all national and international organizations committed to the promotion and
protection of human rights.
DAP would want to see Suhakam being consistent and adopt a similarly
vigorous and robust approach to all domestic human rights issues and
challenges and that Suhakam would henceforth be estopped from disclaiming
jurisdiction of an issue which it admits concerns human rights but has no
power to be engaged and concerned about because of statutory limitations.
preparedness to take a stand on the human rights implications of the Iraq
war is most commendable, especially after the decision of the 53-country UN
Commission of Human Rights yesterday to reject by 25 to18 a proposal to hold
an emergency meeting to consider the effects of war on the Iraqi people and
their humanitarian situation. Canada, Japan, European and several Latin
American nations sided with the United States to defeat the resolution.
Sponsored by Russia and a number of Asian, Arab and African states,
including Malaysia, they argued the commission should reaffirm the
application of the fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians
by all parties to the conflict.
The decision of the UN Commission on Human Rights is most deplorable, as it
should have taken the opportunity to focus on the situation facing ordinary
Iraqis and in particular the impact of war on the human rights and
humanitarian conditions, as it is the UN's principal body responsible for
the promotion and protection of human rights.
The UN Commission should have provided the forum for mounting International
concerns about civilian suffering in Iraq - such as the interruption of food
handouts, on which 60 percent of the 22 million Iraqis rely and war damage
to pipelines and treatment plants forcing Iraqis to drink polluted water,
increasing the likelihood of cholera and dysentery.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National