KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — Hope and cautious optimism were the general mood this evening as Malaysians gathered to watch a live stream of the United Nation’s third Universal Periodic Review session from Geneva, Switzerland.
Organised by an alliance of organisations and NGOs, including the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango), the crowd began trickling in shortly before 8.30pm.
By almost 9pm, over 60 people filled the room in a shared office space in Bangsar. Among those spotted included prominent human rights activist and lawyer Siti Kasim, and representatives from the embassies of Qatar and the European Union.
When the live stream began shortly after 9pm, polite applause could be heard as Malaysian Foreign Affairs secretary-general Datuk Seri Ramlan Ibrahim began his opening speech to the delegate members.
The audience, which included parents with children on their laps, intently listened to the various nation-state delegates providing their views and recommendations to the Malaysian delegation.
Some, such as Slovakia and Bangladesh, who each spoke on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and protection of migrant workers respectively, were met with murmurs of agreement.
There were even moments of hilarity and confusion, such as when the Spanish delegate spoke untranslated which elicited loud laughter from everyone, or the Swiss delegate whose translator spoke too rapidly for many to understand.
Louder voices of agreement could be heard as several other delegates recommended more action on repealing the death penalty, abolishing corporal punishment and ending child marriage.
Perhaps the loudest cheers were reserved for mentions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by the delegates, and even recommendations to protect religious and sexual minority groups.
The review session enables UN members to speak out on improving human rights within their respective nations, and discuss the steps taken in fulfilling their human rights obligations as defined by the UN.
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