KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia will withdraw its ratification of the International Criminal Court’s founding Rome Statute, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced on Friday, a month after Kuala Lumpur acceded to the treaty.
Mahathir attributed the withdrawal to “confusion” over implications of ratifying the statute, after the accession was met with reservations.
“We will withdraw not because the Rome Statute is harmful to us, but it has raised confusion by some people,” he said at the press conference, according to state news agency Bernama.
Mahathir said in the press conference that the country could withdraw before June.
He said some had claimed that Malaysia ratifying the statute would mean the country losing its independence over its own policies and laws.
“This is not true. It will be true if we did something that is deemed to be very extreme. But even if we don’t sign (the statute), if we do things that are excessive, the whole world will still turn against us,” he said.
“Myanmar, for example, who did not sign the Rome Statute and took actions that were too excessive, caused the world to take a serious view of the country and the United Nations also, without any referral to the statute,” he added.
Mahathir also said that an attempt was being made to use the ratification of the Rome Statute to undermine the government and himself as prime minister, by implying the government had given its powers to foreigners, Bernama reported.
“I am very surprised that some people tried to make use of this signing of the Statute of Rome as evidence that this government has surrendered everything to the statute,” Mahathir said.
The statute, adopted in 1998, is the founding document establishing the ICC, an international tribunal which came into existence in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah signed the accession to the statute on March 3.
However, days later the Sultan of Johor Ismail Ibrahim said that the government had failed to consult the Conference of Rulers – a council of nine rulers of the Malay states who become head of state on a rotational basis – and had undermined the monarchy’s position, the privileges enjoyed by the majority Malay ethnic community and the sanctity of Islam.
Malaysia’s decision to withdraw from the statute comes less than two weeks after the Philippines formally withdrew from the ICC, which has 122 members but has been shunned by major countries such as the United States, China, India and Russia.