23 April 2019

KOTA KINABALU (23 APRIL 2019) – The national human rights institutions (NHRIs) of Malaysia and Indonesia, namely The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (Komnas HAM) have bilaterally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to address the issue of statelessness and persons at risk of statelessness in Sabah. The Commission on the Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) participated as an observer during the signing of the MoU.

Stateless people in Sabah mainly are of Filipino and Indonesian descent. Stateless persons are often denied the enjoyment of basic human rights such as equality before the law, right to work, right to education, right to healthcare, right to own property and they are at risk of becoming victims of crimes such as trafficking as well as harassment and exploitation.

Documentation, either the absence of or lack of proper documentation, is a fundamental challenge faced by all stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness, and this is primarily the case in Sabah. While the exact number of stateless persons, specifically stateless children in Malaysia is unknown, children born from illicit affairs and unrecognised marriages make up a large number of young people without any documentation. 68% (381) of complaints made to SUHAKAM’s Sabah’s Office last year were related to statelessness.

Through this MoU, SUHAKAM and Komnas HAM, with the CHRP as observer, aim to collaborate and support each other in addressing issues related to statelessness in Sabah from a human rights perspective. SUHAKAM, Komnas HAM and CHRP will also work closely together with their respective governments on issues pertaining to stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness in Sabah and shall conduct joint research to understand and address the geopolitical nature and historical impetus of this issue.

SUHAKAM, Komnas HAM and CHRP aim to provide recommendations based on the collective findings and guided by relevant international human rights treaties, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Global Compact on Migration.

The three NHRIs remain positive in their outlook for the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to ensure that the fundamental human rights of stateless persons are respected and protected, which include, but are not limited to, the right to access asylum and justice, freedom of movement and liberty, non-refoulement, the right to work, education and healthcare.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia (Komnas HAM)
Commission on the Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)
23 APRIL 2019