On Monday, Malaysia ratified the Rome Statute, making it the 124th State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision to join the ICC after 20 years of resistance is not only a welcome development but highlights the importance of long-term persistence in the pursuit of human rights protections.

Established by the Rome Statute in 1998, the ICC is a permanent international court with jurisdiction over those most responsible for committing the most serious human rights crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Conceived as complementing rather than replacing domestic judicial systems, the court’s jurisdiction is limited to cases in which states are unable or unwilling to pursue justice themselves.

“The downing of flight MH17 and the Rohingya crisis have focused Malaysia’s attention on the International Criminal Court.”

Although Malaysia helped negotiate the Rome Statute, it has been long been reluctant to ratify it. In this it is not alone. Of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), only two have ratified the Rome Statute.

Malaysia’s accession will briefly take that number to three, with the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC set to take effect from 19 March 2019. Most ASEAN states have steadfastly refused to join, citing concerns over potential breaches of state sovereignty and of the principle of non-interference, as well as fear that the court may be used for political purposes.

Please click here to read the full “Malaysia joins the International Criminal Court” article at The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Professor Renee Jeffery.