The Malaysian Bar is deeply alarmed as it bears witness to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and the escalating violence resulting in civilian casualties, widespread suffering,1 and the displacement of countless innocent individuals and families as a result of serious breaches and flagrant violations of international laws.2
The phrase that comes to mind that Malaysians will understand is “gajah sama gajah berjuang, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah”.
There is simply no valid justification for the horrific indiscriminate attacks in Gaza. Any attacks or counter-attacks in Gaza affecting civilians are atrocities that constitute war crimes.
The Malaysian Bar remains mindful that parties engaged in the current warfare in Gaza must not disregard their international obligations under the 1949 Geneva Conventions — international treaties which both Israel and Palestine are state parties to.3
It is therefore vital that the international community support the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for such blatant violations. Accountability is a cornerstone of the rule of law, and it is incumbent upon all of us as part of the collective global community to ensure that those who commit war crimes in Gaza are held accountable for their unlawful actions.
The current Gaza conflict serves as a poignant reminder and the pressing need for Malaysia to reconsider becoming a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). The Rome Statute establishes four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression; and represents a crucial instrument in the global effort to combat impunity and hold perpetrators of the most heinous war crimes accountable for their actions at the ICC.
Acceding to the Rome Statute would mean that Malaysia can further demonstrate its commitment to the principles of justice, accountability, and the protection of international humanitarian law and human rights on the international stage. As a State Party to the Rome Statute, pursuant to Article 14(1),4 Malaysia will be able to refer such atrocities to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC for investigation and prosecution.
In the light of the profound suffering and human toll inflicted on civilians due to the conflict in Gaza, and the continuous breaches of international laws, the Malaysian Bar stands firmly in solidarity with the international community, urging an immediate ceasefire and advocating a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
The Malaysian Bar therefore reaffirms its call for the ratification of the Rome Statute, and that all parties involved in the violation of international laws in the current Gaza conflict — whether directly or indirectly — heed this international call for ceasefire5 and stand accountable for the violations of international laws and commission of war crimes.
A ceasefire at this juncture would merely be temporary. The international community must appreciate that a long-term solution for peace in Gaza and the broader region must include upholding the rule of law.
The Global Peace Index in 2023 ranks Malaysia as the 19th most peaceful nation in the world out of 163 countries. Palestine is ranked at 134 and Israel is ranked at 143.6 Gaza of course has no ranking.
The Malaysian Bar therefore resonates with the manner of quantification of the Global Peace Index — that the main factor to achieving peace is attributable to the strength of the rule of law in any nation or the broader region. It therefore follows that the rule of law must be strong and prevail in order for the global peace index of any nation to rise correspondingly.
The Malaysian Bar’s thoughts remain with the sufferings of civilians in Gaza.
Karen Cheah Yee Lynn
1 November 2023
1 “Palestinian Death Toll Passes 8,000 as U.N. Aid Warehouses Suffer Break-Ins”, TIME, 29 October 2023.
2 “Displaced Palestinians in overcrowded UN schools face outbreak of disease”, Aljazeera, 27 October 2023.
3 International Humanitarian Law Databases, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
4 Article 14(1) Rome Statute: “A State Party may refer to the Prosecutor a situation in which one or more crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court appear to have been committed requesting the Prosecutor to investigate the situation for the purpose of determining whether one or more specific persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes.”
5 “Gaza crisis: General Assembly adopts resolution calling for ‘humanitarian truce’, civilian protection”, UN News, United Nations website, 27 October 2023.
6 “Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Peace Index 2023: Measuring peace in a complex world”, Sydney, June 2023, pages 8 and 9.