Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

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The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Malay: Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Malaysia) better known locally as SUHAKAM is the national human rights institution (NHRI) of Malaysia. It was established by the Malaysian Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597, and began its work in April 2000. Its mandate is to promote human rights education, advise on legislation and policy, and conduct investigations. For the period 2010-2013 the commission is headed by Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, a former diplomat.


Having been established after the fallout of the Anwar Ibrahim controversy, some lacked confidence in its independence from the government of the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Muhammad. However, when Tan Sri Dato' Musa Hitam was named as the first chairman of the (initially, 13-member) commission, these fears were eased, as he was believed to be critical of Mahathir in many ways. The commission's recommendations under Musa, however, were often not implemented by the government. When his two-year term ended, he did not seek reappointment.

Musa was replaced with Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman in April 2002. Abu Talib had served as Attorney General under Mahathir, and was also involved in the Anwar Ibrahim controversy. As reported in Malaysiakini, he was widely seen as close to Mahathir, but SUHAKAM under Abu Talib continued to put forth many human rights recommendations. Many of these recommendations have yet to be acted upon by the government.

International standing

SUHAKAM was accredited as a full "A status" member of the Asia Pacific Forum (APF), the regional network of NHRIs, and has since been reaccredited by the International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC) to which the APF now defers on accreditation.

In 2008 SUHAKAM was asked by the accreditation subcommittee of the ICC to explain in writing within a year why it should not be downgraded from A status to B status, which would deprive it of certain access privileges within the United Nations system. The ICC sought to encourage the Government of Malaysia to amend the body's founding laws and make it more independent. However, when SUHAKAM was reviewed by the ICC in November 2009, it was decided to retain its A status pending a further review to be carried out in 2010, with particular attention to the process for selecting members of the commission.

SUHAKAM regrets use of Act

On 9 May 2008, SUHAKAM stated that it was concerned by the Sedition Act being used to curb freedom of speech. Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the fundamental freedom enshrined in the Constitution, including the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly, must be safeguarded and he also made comments on the arrest and charging of the editor of the news portal Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin saying "SUHAKAM regrets that Raja Petra was charged under the Internal Security Act (Malaysia), as this is an infringement on the freedom of speech which is a fundamental human right. The use of the Act in this case is unjustified as civil remedies could have been sought in a Court of Law".


Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Wikipedia

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