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For Immediate Release
8 December 2016
Launch of SUARAM Human Rights Report Overview 2016
In conjunction with Human Rights Day, SUARAM launched its Human Rights Report Overview for the year on 8 December 2016.
2016 was a dark year for Malaysia. The Malaysian public witnessed the indifference and injustice in the manner in which the Malaysian government openly violated and ignored human rights. In this overview for 2016, SUARAM highlights six key issues among the myriad of documented human rights violations.
First, laws which permit detention without trial continue to be used by the government. The use of SOSMA, POCA, POTA and DDA has been especially frequent with ‘wholesale’ arrests recently by the Royal Malaysian Police. In the name of terrorism and crime prevention, many victims were held for prolonged periods under remand and there have been reports of torture. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said that he does not regret the passing of security laws even though these may have adverse effects on the wellbeing of detainees.
Secondly, the government now suppresses the freedom of expression by using the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) instead of the previous Sedition Act 1948. While the Sedition Act 1948 continues to be in use against members of opposition and human rights defenders, CMA is now used against the general public to suppress any comments made online which the authorities consider ‘offensive’ or ‘seditious’.
Thirdly, relating to the abuse of power by the Royal Malaysian Police, while on the one hand cases of deaths in police custody have reduced noticeably in 2016, there has been a sharp increase in documented cases of fatal police shootings, with claims of foul play by families of victims against the Royal Malaysian Police.
Fourthly, organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies continued to be harassed and persecuted in 2016 with a large numbers of individuals called for questioning for allegedly organizing an illegal rally, Bersih 5. The Bersih 5 convoy and main event were subjected to varying degrees of harassment and physical intimidation by a neo-fascist group called the ‘Red Shirts’ led by a known UMNO leader Jamal Yunos. Then chairperson of the Bersih steering committee, Maria Chin was detained under SOSMA for 10 days by the Royal Malaysian Police on the eve of the Bersih 5 rally. Furthermore, civil servants were threatened with the prospect of losing their jobs and students were also threatened with disciplinary actions if they were to participate in the peaceful rally.
The status of religious freedom in Malaysia became a topic of controversy again in 2016. For decades, the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the syariah courts in the case of unilateral conversion was a conflict that had not been resolved. In May 2016, the Federal Court ruled in the case of M. Indhira Gandhi’s children that unilateral conversion can be challenged. Following this decision, a non-practicing Muslim was able to exercise her freedom of religion by reverting to the religion she had been practicing during her life.
Lastly, gender discrimination continued to be rampant in 2016 with sexist remarks made by politicians with impunity. The reversal of the damages awarded to Noor Fadilla by the court was a major disappointment for the human rights defenders. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community also faced discrimination when it was openly announced that they will not be recruited into the Royal Malaysian Police force if they are identified with any one of the LGBT community.
SUARAM calls upon the Government of Malaysia to cease its violations of human rights and adopt laws which are compliant with recognized international human rights standards and practice an inclusive and fair enforcement of the law to safeguard the rights of the people of Malaysia. Acknowledging the growing security threat posed by extremist groups, SUARAM urges the Malaysian Government to understand that human rights and security are not mutually exclusive but complement each other. Without human rights and civil liberties, all attempts to nullify the threat of extremism brought on by any terrorist groups will only be doomed to failure.
Download for SUARAM Overview Report 2016: Overview 2016 Digital Edition