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Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide: Treaties

Finding Malaysian Treaties

The Malaysian Department of Foreign Affairs Official portal lists multilateral treaties to which Malaysia is a party. There are no links to the treaties themselves. 

To see all tools for finding bilateral and multilateral treaties to which Malaysia is a party, see the Finding Treaties box on the Treaties page of our Public International Law Research guide.

The most comprehensive place to find bilateral and multilateral treaties to which Malaysia is a party is the open access United Nations Treaty Collection website (open access). This includes:

To find all treaties to which Malaysia is a party, select Participant Search and then select Malaysia from the drop down Participant list.

 

CLJ Law (UniMelb staff & student access - requires a separate password in addition to your UniMelb password. Get password here) includes a treaties database. This can only be searched, not browsed, so you need to know at least some of the words that will be in the title or text of the treaty you are looking for.

  • Select References on the top menu bar of the CLJ Homepage.
  • Choose Treaties from the dropdown menu.

The effect of Treaties on domestic law

In Malaysia, as in the United Kingdom and many other common law countries, the Government (Executive) possesses the treaty-making capacity, and once the Executive has ratified a treaty, the treaty binds the Government under international law. However, the power to give legal effect domestically to treaties rests with the Legislature. This practice is based on the ‘doctrine of transformation’. For a treaty to be operative in Malaysia, the Legislature must therefore pass a domestic law to give legal effect to that treaty. Without this, the treaty has no domestic legal effect. 

For a detailed discussion of the effect of treaties on domestic law in Malaysia, see Judicial Application of International Law in Malaysia: an Analysis. The full text of this open access article is available on the Malaysian Bar website.  

Adherence to Human rights and Humanitarian Treaties

Malaysia maintains reservations against treaty provisions seen to conflict with Islamic and national law. 

Malaysia has ratified several international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The majority of the CRC provisions have been incorporated into domestic law via the Child Act 2001 (Act 611).

In 2010, Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but declared that it would not be bound by Articles 15 and 18; “Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, and “Liberty of movement and nationality for persons with disabilities”. Other obligations under the treaty have been codified in the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (Act 685).

Malaysia has also ratified six of the eight International Labour Organization Core Conventions. In 1990, Malaysia denounced C105 on the Abolition of Forced Labour.

Malaysia is party to the most important conventions on terrorism, but it has acceded neither to the main treaties dealing with refugees nor to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In some recent decisions, Malaysian courts have linked constitutional guarantees to international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights, in interpreting domestic laws that impede a citizen’s constitutional right. For example, see: 

  • In Muhammad Hilman Idham & Ors Kerajaan Malaysia & Ors [2011] 9 CLJ 50, the Court of Appeal stated ([24]): 'Freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights that individuals enjoy. It is fundamental to the existence of democracy and the respect of human dignity.  This basic right is recognised in numerous human rights documents such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'.
  • In Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin v Chayed Basirun & Ors [2012] 1 MLJ 832 the High Court applied Articles 1 and 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to its interpretation of Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution. The court stated (at [28]): '… in interpreting article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, it is the court’s duty to take into account the government commitment and obligation at international level especially under an international convention, like CEDAW, to which Malaysia is a party…”.