More power for Suhakam to visit any detention centre to probe human rights abuses

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will have the power to visit any detention centre or location to probe allegations of human rights abuses in the future.

This comes after Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said tabled the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act (Amendment) Act 2023 for its first reading on Monday (Nov 27) to give the human rights watchdog more bite.

The amendments are set to be debated and passed before the Dewan Rakyat meeting ends this Nov 30.

Amendments to Section 4(2)(d) of the parent Suhakam Act will give the commission the power to "visit any place of detention, institution or other place" and, based on its findings, make the necessary recommendations.

Under Section 4(3), Suhakam commissioners cannot be refused entry provided Suhakam had fulfilled the stipulated procedures or guidelines concerning entry into the detention centre or place before their visits.

Amendments to Section 4(2)(e) will also allow Suhakam to receive and act on complaints directly from children or any person or authority related to children's complaints.

To further ensure that Suhakam carries out its duties independently and with integrity, amendments to Section 5 state that a person who is politically active or registered with any political party shall not be appointed to the Commission.

Also, there must be a minimum of seven and not more than 20 members in Suhakam.

One appointed commissioner must be representative of persons with disabilities, while 30% of the remaining members must be women.

A new Section 6A will be introduced to appoint a Chief Children Commissioner and two Children Commissioners from among Suhakam members.

A new Section 10A will also be introduced for a Code of Conduct for commissioners to be drawn up by the minister in charge of law.

If any commissioner is accused of a breach of conduct, the minister shall refer the matter to the Prime Minister, who will then appoint a three-member investigation tribunal to probe the matter.

Under the new Section 10B, a commissioner may be suspended from office pending the probe's outcome.

If a breach of conduct is found to have been committed, the three-panel investigating tribunal shall recommend to the Prime Minister that the commissioner in question be removed.

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