Press Statement: 6 April 2011
Home Ministry to embark comprehensive investigation on the cause(s) of the incident.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) urges the government, in particular, the Home Ministry to embark on comprehensive investigation on the cause(s) of the riot and detainees’ escape from the Lenggeng Detention Centre on 4th April, 2011.
According to the statement made by the Deputy Police Chief Datuk Abdul Manan Mohd. Hassan, investigations showed that the indefinite detention period, overcrowding and poor immigration management, including dissatisfaction with the food provisions were among the root causes. Also, it was stated that some of the escapees had lost patience in waiting to be resettled to a third country by United Nations of High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).
SUARAM believes that there may be other contributing factors as to why the detainees had set the building on fire and escaped from the detention centre.
According to a joint investigation by SUARAM, TENAGANITA and Bar Council on a similar fire incident at the same detention centre on 21st April 2008, the abuse of power and physical abuse by Immigration officers and People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) were the main reasons for the incident. Amongst other reasons were cramped living conditions, unhygienic living conditions, prolonged and indefinite detention periods and outbreak of diseases.
Based on the report published by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) which was released last February, similar problems such as abuse of power, overcrowding, poor sanitation and unhygienic conditions, and indefinite detention periods are still prevalent in many Malaysian immigration detention centres. The working group visited Malaysia on its country mission from 7 to 17 June 2010.
This latest incident, which involved 109 detainees who set the building on fire and escaped from the Lenggeng Detention centre, proves that the problems highlighted by the WGAD are still occurring.
SUARAM urges the government, especially the Home Ministry to initiate a comprehensive and transparent investigation on the incident and to act on the recommendations by NGOs and the WGAD in order to ensure that detention centres are managed in line with international human rights principles. SUARAM also urges the government to investigate previous allegations of human rights violations and abuse of power by related authorities in detention centres.
SUARAM also urges the Immigration Department to immediately provide asylum seekers access to the UNHCR and to allow the UNHCR to process their asylum claims. Upon verification of their asylum claims, the Government must immediately release the asylum seekers into the UNHCR’s official care.
SUARAM strongly urges calls on the Human Rights Commission on Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to conduct an independent and open inquiry into the incident.
SUARAM further urges the government to accede both the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol to recognize and establish a domestic act to protect refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia.
Andika Ab. Wahab