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Malaysia U-turns on decision to join war crimes court after political pressure

Malaysia U-turns on decision to join war crimes court after political pressure

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (Photo: Bernama)

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will no longer join the International Criminal Court (ICC), said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday (Apr 5), citing political pressure and "confusion among the rulers".

The ICC has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

In March, Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah signed the Instrument of Accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC, which was set to enter into force on Jun 1.

The signing was criticised as unconstitutional by Johor Crown Prince Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who claimed that the Conference of Rulers were not consulted prior to the signing.

He said Malay rulers could fall victim to “orchestrated war crimes” by those wanting to see the fall of the royal institutions.


Dr Mahathir said on Friday that the decision to withdraw was due to confusion created by “one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people”. He did not name the individual.

The prime minister maintained that the ratification would not affect the rights of the Malays and the rulers.

Visibly upset over the Cabinet's decision to not ratify the Rome Statute, Dr Mahathir told reporters at a press conference that the backlash against signing the treaty was a political move to pit the royals against the government. 

"We understand that this is a political move to get the rulers to back them up. Of course some members of the royal family might be involved, but the whole idea is to get the royalty in Malaysia to go against this government," Dr Mahathir said. 

"Because of this confusion, and confusion among the rulers, we have made the decision that we will not recognise the Rome Statute," Dr Mahathir added. 

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This is the government's second policy backtrack in recent months. In November, Malaysia went back on a decision to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) after pushback and criticisms.

After the prime minister's comments, the Johor crown prince posted a series of images on Facebook to make his case on how the Rome Statute would undermine the status of the royals.

One of the points brought up was Article 27 of the Rome Statute, which states that it should apply equally to all persons. Therefore, the rulers’ sovereignty as guaranteed in Article 181 of the Malaysian constitution will not stop the ICC from taking action against the king, according to his interpretation. 

“This is a serious issue. The whole world knows that we have signed. Now U-turn,” he said.

Source: CNA/tx(aj)


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