MANILA, Philippines - Malaysian security forces in Sabah who are hunting down the followers of the sulu of Sultan could face charges of committing crimes against humanity over reported acts of human rights abuses, international law expert Harry Roque said Thursday.
Roque who heads the Center for International Law said even Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak could face charges should it be proven that the Malaysian leader was aware of the abuses being committed against the Suluks or the Filipino residents of Sabah, but did nothing to prevent the atrocities.
“It may not be today, it may not be in Malaysia, but surely sometime in the future and somewhere in this planet, he will be held responsible for these crimes. This was the lesson learned by Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor and Tomoyuki Yamashita,” Roque said.
“Najib should stop these crimes lest he join the roster of the infamous,” he added.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib has denied the allegations of abuse committed by Malaysian security forces in Sabah.
Roque said Malaysia should think twice before proceeding to commit further criminal acts under international law, adding that while remains a question on whether the ongoing stand-off is governed by international humanitarian law, the more than 200 fighters of the Royal Sulu Army are not state agents
According to Roque, international law penalizes systematic acts or widespread attacks against civilians.
“This is known as crimes against humanity. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity do not require a nexus with armed conflicts. It suffices that the inhumane acts, be it deportation, arrest, or inhumane treatment, be widespread or systematic,” Roque said.
Roque said that under international law, crimes against humanity may also be committed, aside from murder, through extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, rape, and persecution against an identifiable group on nationals such as the Filipinos in Sabah that intentionally cause great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.
“It’s increasingly becoming clear that Malaysian authorities have no regard whatsoever for their duty under international human rights law to protect and promote the right to life of the Filipinos in Sabah,” Roque said.
Malaysian sources report that as many as 63 members of the Royal Sulu Army have been killed and at least 100 supporters have been arrested.
“And yet, there does not appear to be any sign that Malaysian authorities will even slow down in their resolve to crack down on the historical owners of Sabah,” Roque said.