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Imminent downgrading of Malaysian National Human Rights Commission

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suhakam.jpgA group of 44 members of the Malaysian civil society has urged the government to initiate amendments to the 1999 Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act to make the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) a truly independent and effective institution.

The International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC)'s recent notice to SUHAKAM for its failure to comply with the Paris Principles and the consequent possibility of it being downgraded indicates the ICC's grave concern with regard to the Malaysian government's management of SUHAKAM.

SUHAKAM has been confined by the provisions of the Act and has disappointingly fallen short in its mission to promote and protect human rights. From 21 to 23 April 2008, the ICC Sub-Committee on Accreditation carried out its periodic re-accreditation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) based on the Paris Principles.

The Paris Principles are the international standards for an independent and effective NHRI. In its review of SUHAKAM's accreditation, the ICC Sub-Committee on Accreditation gave notice to SUHAKAM to "provide, in writing, within one year, the documentary evidence deemed necessary to establish its continued conformity with the Paris Principles", failing which, SUHAKAM would be downgraded from its current "A" status to "B".

This means that SUHAKAM will lose its right to participate in the regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It will also be stripped of its full membership in the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs (APF) and will be relegated to a candidate or associate member, which does not have voting rights in the APF's decision-making body, the Forum Council.

The recommendations given to SUHAKAM by the ICC Sub-Committee on Accreditation reaffirms the concerns regarding SUHAKAM's independence and effectiveness which have been articulated by various human rights NGOs in the country since the Commission's establishment.

Read more about this on SUARAM's website.