Contributed by Usha Kulasegaran
KUALA LUMPUR: In a seminar held at the Auditorium of the Bar Council on Friday, 4 April 2008 and jointly organised by the Bar Council and the International Bar Association [IBA] with the kind support of the MacArthur Foundation entitled “Seminar on the International Criminal Court – The Relevance of ICC Proceedings to Malaysian Lawyers: What can be gained?”, the Vice President of the Malaysian Bar, Ragunath Kesavan expressed his hope that this seminar would be a first step towards Malaysia ratifying the Rome Statute.
He stated categorically the Bar Council’s strong support for the Rome Statute and urged the Government to ratify, whilst also expressing his hope that Malaysian lawyers would make themselves more aware of the ICC with a view to developing their careers.
SUHAKAM Commissioner Tunku Datuk Nazihah Tunku Mohamed Rus in
her opening remarks pointed out that SUHAKAM had hosted a talk by Justice
Phillipe Kirsch, President of the International Criminal Court where she pointed
out that there was a lively discussion amongst invited guests. Calling this
seminar a “timely catalyst” for efforts in Malaysia to create greater awareness,
Tunku Nazihah pointed out that concerns as to national sovereignty were not
insurmountable citing the example of Japan, amongst others, as a country
traditionally very concerned about protecting its national sovereignty that had
nevertheless ratified the ICC recently.
It is hoped that the convening of this seminar and future events on the role of the ICC will raise civil society awareness and support of the ICC. Indeed K. Shanmuga, who spoke on behalf of the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee which is spearheading the ICC initiative in Malaysia, in his talk “The relevance of the ICC to Malaysia; nothing to lose, everything to gain”, espoused clearly that the principle of complementarity safeguards the sovereignty of every State Party. He also clarified that the ICC was reserved for “serious crimes” as defined in the Rome Statute. It would be a noble act on the part of this Government to ratify and accept its goals and aspirations.
In an overview of the ICC, Paolina Massida, the ICC's Principal Counsel for Victims, pointed out that the beauty of the ICC was that lawyers practising all over the world are on its Register of lawyers. The victims and aggressors alike have a right to the register to select their lawyers from the list.
Rupert Skilbeck, the Principal Defender in the Defence Office of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC], brought by way of similarities and differences the ECCC experience and its current works under the auspices of the United Nations. This is a Court for a specific conflict meant to complete its work within a specific time–frame with specific goals.
It becomes hugely transparent and entirely obvious that the ICC being a permanent Court is revolutionary in concept and theory! The ICC has evolved from the United Nations concept of specific ad–hoc tribunals acting after the event of catastrophe into a permanent hands–on court dealing with serious crimes as and when it arises. It only now remains for the Security Council’s 60–year right of veto to also evolve to allow for serious aggression to be addressed almost immediately, and to prevent civilian casualties in its current magnitude.
Opportunity for Malaysian lawyers
Lawyer N. Sivananthan who is on the list of counsel for the ICC states that despite the long labourious process of the application, he has found a new challenge in the international arena. Liliana De Marco informed us that a total 236 lawyers are registered with 4 from Asia. Experience in criminal law is a must. Every application is vetted and screened. Lawyers are then placed on the Register according to experience in handling international criminal trials.
Liliana rounded up by stating that the IBA aims to give technical assistance and create awareness among lawyers about the ICC. Dato' Muhammad Shafee, a SUHAKAM Commissioner, echoed this sentiment in his closing remarks by emphasising that the Rome Statute should be seriously looked into because it is the way forward. There should be more focused movements towards Malaysia ratifying the Statute.
Andrew Khoo, who was the master of ceremonies for the whole event, gave his concluding remarks as the Deputy Chair of the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee by thanking all the speakers and stated we should all look forward to the next steps ahead.
It is noted that since the Nazi Nuremberg trials in Germany and the Tokyo trials of World War II, the evolution of an international permanent Court is timely. The Court acts a deterrent and allows the international community to react more rapidly to a conflict when it happens.
Malaysia’s international stature and standing in the world today as a nation that brokers peace and offers peacekeeping troops to troubled countries would be enhanced by her ratification of the Rome Statute immediately.