Thursday, August 20, 2015

PGA Parliamentary South-East Asia Sub-Regional Seminar on the International Rule of Law and the Protection of Civilians

PGA Parliamentary South-East Asia Sub-Regional Seminar on the International Rule of Law and the Protection of Civilians

30 July 2015, Kuala Lumpur

The Asia-Pacific region remains under-represented in the Rome Statute system, which encouraged the Parliament of Malaysia under the leadership of the PGA Malaysia National Group, with the support of its Chair Honorable Minister Abdul Aziz Nazri, MP and represented by its Group Secretary Hon. Kula Segaran, MP to organize this Seminar, focusing on Rome Statute accession by Malaysia and Indonesia.

This particular focus stems from the leading roles both countries play in securing stability and peace in the region and in the promotion of the fight against impunity, democracy and good governance under the Rule of Law. This Seminar was opened by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Malaysia Hon. Datuk Ronald Kiandee and received the official support of the Speaker of Parliament. The International Criminal Court was presented by the newly elected Judge Hon. Justice Raul Cano Pangalangan, who was not only able to enlighten the high-level participants about the importance of the ICC for the ASEAN Region, but also incorporate his experience from his own country, the Philippines, towards the Accession to the Rome Statute.

Hon. M. Kulasegaran, MP Malaysia, PGA Member, reported in his opening remarks that:
Malaysia is long over-due to accede to the Rome Statute and has to show know finally its strong commitment to the Rule of Law. I call upon the leadership of Malaysia to protect civilians from impunity for perpetrators of international crimes by joining the permanent structures of the International Criminal Court without further ado.

Looking at the globalizing threats that face our citizens, this action has to be taken now! Joining the ICC, in which this region is under-represented, means strengthening the international legal order. It would send a signal of compassion from the people of Malaysia to the victims of international crimes all over the world.”
The Parliament of Indonesia was represented by 6 Members of Parliament from the House and the Senate, including leading PGA Members in Indonesia Hon. M. A. Syamsuddin, Chair of Committee III on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and Hon. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, Chair of the Committee on Inter-parliamentary Cooperation and Member of Committee I (Defense and Security).
Indonesian MPs, academics and NGO representatives reported that the Rome Statute’s definitions of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes have been incorporated in new draft Penal Code of Indonesia, which has been submitted by the Government for consideration by the relevant Committee (III) in its upcoming session starting on August 17, 2015.

PGA Indonesian Members, which supported this development over the past two Legislatures, identified this step as a pivotal one towards Indonesia's membership in the Rome Statute system based on the principle of complementarity, which attributes to States the primary responsibility to put an end to impunity for these crimes.

Hon. A. Syamsuddin, MP (Indonesia), Chair of Commission III and PGA Member, said during the seminar:
The new government of Indonesia should live up to its policy objectives of strengthening the Rule of Law in our country. I call upon the government to accede to the Rome Statute soon, for it will strengthen our national legal order and any further delays is a lost opportunity for justice. Indonesian youngsters who consider joining the so-called jihad with ISIS should be discouraged by educating them that there can be no impunity for the horrible crimes committed by this group. Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world: we should ensure that crimes are separated from religion. Joining the ICC would be an important signal that we don’t tolerate crimes being committed in the name of religion."
Hon. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, MP (Indonesia) Chair of the Committee on Inter-parliamentary Cooperation and PGA Member strongly and clearly stated that:
Impunity for international crimes is unacceptable”.
The discussions provided for a momentous opportunity to explain any misconceptions that national legislators had about the Court and underline the advantages of being part of the Rome statute system in the fight against impunity. The seminar provided a welcomed platform for legislators and local actors to voice their concerns and exchange points of view. The discussions culminated in a number of shared conclusions based on questions from the floor and new strategies were developed for a swift accession of both Malaysia and Indonesia to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

PGA Member Hon. Kula Segaran will report to the Chair of the Malaysian PGA National Group Hon. Minister Nazri on the decisions taken, and ask him to address the Prime Minister in an open letter regarding the 2011 Cabinet decision and the current status of Malaysia’s political will to join the Rome Statue of the ICC.
In Indonesia, 231 out of 460 Members need to vote for this issue to be on the official agenda of Parliament in the next session starting on August 18, 2015. PGA Members in Indonesia are traveling back to their constituencies with the plan to report on the outcomes of this Seminar to their fraction members and Committee Colleagues, and to share the Kuala Lumpur Plan of Action in Parliament.

PGA Member Hon. Ahmed Mahloof, MP (Maldives) requested technical assistance from PGA for a Model Law to implement the Rome Statute in the Maldives that he will present to Parliament in a private members motion.

In his closing remarks and at the Reception kindly hosted by the European Union Delegation to Malaysia, the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, H.E. Ambassador Luc Vandebon, recalled Malaysia’s efforts towards accession and the Cabinet decision to accede that had already been taken in 2011 and is a valid decision by government that will never expire. The European Union strongly encourages Malaysia and Indonesia to accede to the Rome Statute and kindly mentioned PGA as the leading NGO working towards this cause through its parliamentary Members.
In the fringes of the Seminar, PGA also had an opportunity to meet with the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission and the President of the Malaysian Bar Council who provided PGA with their experiences regarding the particular broader human rights situations in both countries.

This Seminar fulfilled its goals in sensitizing Members of the Indonesian and Malaysian Parliament on the Rome Statute ratification and implementation and successfully addressed existing prejudices and obstacles towards accession and effective implementation of the Rome Statute. Members of Parliament from those two states could benefit from leadership experiences of PGA Member Ahmed Mahlof, MP (Maldives) on how he tackled obstacles towards accession and created political will in his own country.

All present MPs, including the Deputy Speaker, decided to become Members of PGA and agreed that joining the ICC is an imperative for a democratic country under the rule of law. The main focus for all those present were the rights of the victims and more than one MP mentioned that it shall not be forgotten why they were all meeting on that day and issue, namely due to their duty as elected legislators to protect those civilians who they promised to represent and protect as elected legislators under the international rule of law and for the pursuit of justice.

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