Malaysia cannot oppose international treaties it ratifies, UN expert tells PAS MPs

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Shanthi is the sole Malaysian to have been elected to the Cedaw committee, serving between 2005 and 2008. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Malaysia has the obligation to not oppose any international treaties it has ratified, said a former member of the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) committee Shanthi Dairiam today.

The local women’s rights activist said it is a “cop out” to say that Malaysia is not bound by international treaties as it means the country is avoiding its international obligations, in reply to an assertion by two Terengganu PAS MPs yesterday.

“We are party to the Vienna Convention on The Law of Treaties, which provides us with guidance on the implementation of ratified treaties and in that, in Article 26 of the Convention, it states: Every treaty enforced is binding upon the state parties and it must be performed by them in good faith.

“Whether or not they are domesticated, they must not do anything that conflicts with the principles of the treaty they have ratified... MPs must understand this,” she said in a video interview with the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the Universal Periodic Review Process (Comango), referring to the treaties.

Shanthi is the sole Malaysian to have been elected to the Cedaw committee, serving between 2005 and 2008.

A member of the committee is an expert elected by UN member states to scrutinise members’ progress on women’s rights, and makes recommendations on any issue affecting women.

Yesterday, Kemaman MP Tuan Che Alias Hamid and Setiu MP Shaharizukirnain Abdul Kadir insisted domestic laws are not bound by international treaties, following a global backlash over Terengganu’s public caning of two women found guilty of lesbian sex.

In response, Shanthi, who is the International Women’s Rights Action Watch founder, said Malaysia has accepted international standards by the virtue of being a UN member.

“Local laws, sometimes, because of the majoritarian rule in our parliament, and the rights of certain perceptions, or cultures or way of thinking may take precedence and the universal standards of human rights is set aside.

“Therefore, international standards remind us of the need to have universal standards of human rights and not violate anybody’s right on the basis of culture or tradition,” said the Women’s Aid Organisation exco member.

Shanthi also rebutted Shaharizukirnain’s claim that the caning does not impede on human rights, saying that it has clearly violated the dignity of the two women.

“Article 5 of the UN Charter clearly states that no one should be subjected to torture, cruel or degrading punishment. So, what happened in Terengganu is a violation of human rights,” she added.

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