Student Whistleblowers Leak Paper by Academics Who Stoked Fear of Agong Losing Immunity Under Rome Statute

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Four academics chided for allegedly consulting the Conference of Rulers in secret, sowing confusion over the treaty on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and warning that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may lose his immunity to the court.

A group of student activists today leaked the alleged executive summary of a briefing by four academics to the Conference of Rulers, that ultimately led to Putrajaya withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute.


“Why was this consultation done secretly, without the knowledge of the citizens when the Rome Statute is actually a protection for the citizens from the tyranny of the leaders?

“The arguments in the paper was very lopsided when they had only discussed why the Conference of Rulers should reject the Rome Statute,” the nine activists said in a statement.

The group said they leaked the paper to spark a discourse at all levels, especially among academics, to convince the Conference and the public.

“As ethical academics, they should have given both pros and cons of the Rome Statute to be weighed by the Conference of Rulers appropriately.

“We also made this revelation so these academics can explain themselves and participate in a healthy debate. They were the real source of confusion,” they added.

In the document, the four academics warned the Malay rulers that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) may be prosecuted by the ICC as the supreme commander of the country’s armed forces.

“The YDPA’s role as the supreme commander is not simply symbolic or ceremonial,” said the paper’s summary.

It claimed that the YDPA’s position fulfils the Statute’s Article 28(a) as a military commander with “effective command and control.”

“Since the YDPA is the head of state, the YDPA falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC although the Rome Statute has not been inserted into the country’s legislation,” it said.

The assertion was made despite Wisma Putra’s clarification to the YDPA that he cannot be held responsible for the four core international crimes covered by the statute – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression – as the legal responsibility lies with the prime minister and the Cabinet.

The paper was allegedly prepared by Universiti Teknologi Mara’s deputy vice-chancellor and dean of Faculty of Law Prof Datuk Rahmat Mohamad, International Islamic University of Malaysia’s law lecturer Assoc Prof Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s law lecturers Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

The activists claimed that the paper was presented to the Conference of Rulers on April 2.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah confirmed that the rulers held an informal meeting on that date to discuss the issue, and Rahmat was among the four people called besides himself.

To prove their arguments that the ICC could act against the monarchy, the academics drew parallels with the last German emperor Wilhelm II and Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Both were instrumental as war leaders in World War I and World War II, respectively.

The academics also pointed out that neighbours Brunei, Thailand, and the Philippines had all withdrawn from the Statute, in addition to Burundi. The first two are absolute monarchies, unlike Malaysia which is a constitutional monarchy.

They also warned of two “possible scenarios” between now and June 1 when the Statute would have been in force, claiming that the Agong and rulers will be under ICC’s jurisdiction regardless of whether Putrajaya amends the Constitution or does nothing.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government was forced to bow out due to political pressure from opponents who spread unnecessary fear and confusion in public.

He also said critics of the Rome Statute wanted to trigger a row between the country’s monarchy and the new government, accusing them of engaging in a political move “to get the rulers to back them up.”

The students have also started an online petition urging Putrajaya against withdrawing the ratification of the Rome Statute, saying it would bring justice for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Related reports:

Apr 7, G25 Calls for Rome Statute Counter-Narrative Against Royals, “Ignorant Malays”

Apr 6, Rulers Have Nothing to Fear from Rome Statute

Apr 6, Withdrawal from Rome Statute – Between a Rock and a Hard Place