Opening ceremony: Li giving a speech at the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) in Beijing. — AFP
Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation was born at a historic moment, but struggles to deal with the present day issues.
LAST week, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) held its annual session in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
Here’s a bit of the organisation’s background – with a focus on international law and legal matters of common concern, AALCO is the legacy of the Bandung Conference.
That historic conference in 1955, also known as the Asia-Africa Conference, led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan, Indonesian Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana take part in a highly symbolic stroll with other Asian and African leaders to commemorate the historic 1955 Bandung Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, April 24, 2015. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)
More than 30 world leaders, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping, gathered in Indonesia this week for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Bandung Conference.
Malaysia is one of the 47 member states of AALCO that has its headquarters in New Delhi, and the current AALCO secretary-general, Prof Dr Rahmat Mohamad, is a Malaysian.
“AALCO is not a political union. That is why it is not popular and people do not know of its existence,” said Dr Rahmat.
“We are a legal consultative body comprising legal experts from the Asian and African countries.”
AALCO deals with issues that affect the legal rights of its member states and highlights their views to the International Law Commission (ILC) and the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.
It has also established permanent observer missions to the United Nations and set up regional arbitrary centres, one of which is in Kuala Lumpur.
Dr Rahmat, who was the deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Mara, won the election to the post in 2008. He is now serving his second four-year term.
“The regions of Asia and Africa have different political beliefs, culture and systems. But at the end of the day, we get the common concern and bring it to the attention of the ILC and UN,” he said.
“It was the vision of leaders like (Indonesia’s first president) Sukarno and (India’s first prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru that newly independent countries must have their voices heard in international forums like the United Nations.
“When you have a body like AALCO, the other side will know what our concerns are.”
Using the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an example. Dr Rahmat said many Asian countries are not state parties to the treaty, but that does not mean that they are against the idea.
“It is good but a lot of issues have to be clarified and resolved first,” he said.
“The Penal Code in Malaysia, for instance, only has definition of crime, but not crime against humanity. How do you apply that in our system? We are not used to it, our judges and prosecutors are not used to it.”
The Rome Statute, which has been acceded to by 123 countries, established the ICC to investigate and prosecute four core international crimes, namely genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression.
“There are issues that need to be resolved domestically first,” Dr Rahmat said.
“However, the politics of it are causing apprehension. My job is to continue to disseminate legal knowledge to make people aware.”
During the 54th annual session of AALCO here last week, delegates from the member states explored issues such as the deportation of Palestinians, the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (Investment Treaties), international law in cyberspace, environment and sustainable development, violent extremism and terrorism, and law of the sea.
As broad and complex as these topics may seem, Dr Rahmat said the works of AALCO are closely related to the people.
“We do not live in a vacuum. International law is part of every individual’s life,” he said.
“In addition to what is happening within our own country, we must also pay attention to matters in the world.”
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who officiated at the annual session, proposed a China-AALCO exchange and research programme on international law.
He said the initiative, to be funded by China, would help develop AALCO and promote co-operation in international rule of law.
In his speech, Li said Asia and Africa have a combined GDP of US$29 trillion (RM105 trillion), accounting for 37.5% of the global total. It is a 47-fold increase compared to that of 1970.
He also proposed the Asian and African countries to, among others, deepen exchanges and co-operation on international legal system, and work together to meet global non-traditional security challenges.
The session also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. Representatives who spoke during the event agreed that the Bandung Spirit of peaceful co-existence and solidarity is still very much relevant in today’s world.
Check-in China by Tho Xin Yi
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.