SUHAKAM’s Positive Efforts Must Continue

SUARAM commends the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) for sending an official monitoring team to the Anti ISA candlelight vigil on 1 August 2010 at Padang Timur Dataran MBPJ, Petaling Jaya. This was in response to an earlier request by SUARAM and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) to send a monitoring team for the vigil. The vigil was held to commemorate the passing of the Internal Security Act (ISA) 50 years ago and to call for the abolition of the ISA.

SUARAM notes that SUHAKAM Commissioners James Nayagam and Muhammad Sha’ani, accompanied by their five officers, were present before the vigil began and also at the Petaling Jaya police headquarters where those arrested were brought. They continued monitoring at the police station until the last person was released at approximately 4.50am.

This is indeed a positive step forward following SUHAKAM’s refusal to do the same exactly one year ago, in the massive anti-ISA rally in August 2009, which subsequently saw 589 individuals being arrested.

Such renewed efforts in SUHAKAM’s work is indeed welcomed and is especially timely in view of the continued occurrence of grave violations of human rights in the country. SUHAKAM’s latest effort is a glimpse of what the Human Rights Commission that Malaysia could and ought to do to fulfil its mandate as a credible national human rights institution and expected role as a public defender of human rights.

Notwithstanding this, SUARAM expresses concern over the government’s disregard of SUHAKAM’s previous recommendations. The arrests made during the anti-ISA candlelight vigil on 1 August 2010 were the latest of the many instances of the government’s refusal to comply with SUHAKAM’s numerous recommendations on peaceful assembly, including those contained in the Commission’s reports of its public inquiries on the cases of the Kesas Highway incident (2001), the “Bloody Sunday” incident in KLCC (2006), and the Bandar Mahkota Cheras incident (2008). In the report of the public inquiry into the “Bloody Sunday” incident, for example, SUHAKAM recommended that “peaceful assemblies should be allowed to proceed without a license”. However, through the excessive use of force by the police and FRU personnel in dispersing participants of the candlelight vigil and previous peaceful assemblies, it is evident that SUHAKAM’s repeated recommendations to the Government have fallen on deaf ears.

SUARAM thus strongly calls upon the police and the Malaysian Government to respect SUHAKAM’s decisions and actions following the Anti ISA vigil and to implement all recommendations made by SUHAKAM.

Encouraged by the positive efforts by SUHAKAM, SUARAM lastly urges the Commission to revisit all recommendations made to the government with increased vigour. SUHAKAM must ensure that its improved efforts in the protection and promotion of human rights do not end with this instance.

OPEN LETTER

Arjunaidi Mohamed
Ketua Polis Daerah Petaling Jaya
Ibupejabat Polis DaerahPetaling Jaya
Polis Diraja Malaysia
Petaling Jaya
Jalan Penchala
46050 Selangor
Tel: 03-79662222
Fax: 03-79548740
5 August 2010

Sir,

We are writing to you to express our outrage and our strongest condemnation over the brutality and misuse of power by your personnel at the Anti ISA candlelight vigil on 1st August 2010 at Padang Timur MBPJ, Petaling Jaya. The candlelight vigil organised by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)

On 1st August, 29 persons were arrested at around Amcorp Mall Petaling Jaya and IPD Petaling Jaya for exercising their right to assemble peacefully as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. As the Officer in Charge of Police District (OCPD) Petaling Jaya, your violent and heavy handed tactics in dispersing the peaceful assembly was highly unprofessional and uncalled for. Instead of acceding to the organisers’ request to negotiate terms for the vigil and providing time for the crowd to disperse peacefully, you ordered your officers to move in forcibly on the crowd which resulted in a situation of chaos and fear. In your arrogance, you even denied the legitimacy of the permit given by the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) to the organisers.

Violence was brutally deployed when your officers moved in to arrest participants of the vigil. Those arrested were shoved, beaten, slapped, dragged, choked and verbally abused by your police officers. Even women were not exempt from the violence. Such extreme use of violence was highly unnecessary as those arrested would have cooperated when informed that they were being arrested. You exercised your powers arbitrarily and as such, you are to be blamed for the human rights violations that occurred on that night.

In addition to that, we condemn your various intimidation tactics such as deploying water cannon trucks and the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) to frighten the good citizens who gathered outside the District Police Headquarters (IPD) Petaling Jaya in solidarity with those arrested. Vindictively, you also arrested another 3 individuals outside the IPD and deployed traffic police in the wee hours of the morning to summon the vehicles of those who were waiting outside the police station for the arrested to be released. However, we regard the intimidation of the highest order to be your action to compel the lawyers representing those arrested to give a separate witness statement. We condemn outright violation of the right to seek counsel and the rights of the lawyer when representing their clients.

Even though Section 27 of the Police Act provides police with arbitrary powers to allow or refuse permits for public gatherings, this provision is in contravention of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia which guarantees civil liberties with regards to the right to assembly and free speech.

As an OCPD, you should be ashamed of yourself for being a poor example as a leader to the younger and lower ranking police officers under your charge. As a member and leader of the police force, you should be setting an example to the officers under your charge by respecting fundamental human rights in your endeavours to protect the public from crimes. Contrary to this, you have shown not just your officers but the people of Malaysia that you exercise control over the public by inflicting fear and terror.

Due to the above, SUARAM demands that you publicly apologise to the participants of the candlelight vigil, those who were abused by your officers and the lawyers whom you have intimidated. We also urge you not to press charges against those who were arrested as they were merely exercising their Constitutional rights to assemble peacefully.

Like the activists and participants of the candlelight vigil, you are also a citizen of Malaysia. We believe that you would equally benefit from the preservation of the right to assembly and free speech that are essential in a democratic society.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Suhakam regrets police arrests, 30 GMI activists released

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 22:58:00 (malay mail)

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commision of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) expresses its regret over the inability of the public to assemble peacefully during the 50 years of ISA vigil that took place on Aug 1 at Dataran Petaling Jaya. SUHAKAM was present at the event to observe and monitor the situation.

SUHAKAM, through its observation, found that the right to assembly was denied during the event as the authorities stopped the gathering and dispersed the crowds with much haste. Proper warning and ample time to disperse were not given by the authorities, thus resulting in a commotion where 22 men and 8 women were arrested because they were suspected as participants of the vigil.

SUHAKAM has consistently urged the Government to consider and take into account the recommendations made by the Commission on freedom of assembly as expressed in the reports relating to the Kesas Highway and KLCC “Bloody Sunday” Inquiries. SUHAKAM would therefore recommend that in the event where the police finds it necessary to control or disperse a crowd, proportionate and nonviolent methods should be employed.

SUHAKAM strongly reiterates its stand that the people have the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, as all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms as guaranteed by Article 10 (1) (b) of the Federal Constitution. The right to freedom of assembly is also guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 20 (1).

SUHAKAM also wishes to address the ordeal of the detainees of the vigil at the Petaling Jaya police station where the authorities requested the lawyers to provide separate witness statements. This unusual practice forced the lawyers to pull out from giving legal counsel to the detainees. Apart from that, SUHAKAM feels that the authorities could have expedited the process of bail at the police station as the detainees had to endure long hours before they could be released.

However, SUHAKAM wishes to record that full cooperation was extended by the Police to the Commission which enabled  SUHAKAM to observe and monitor the 50 years of ISA vigil and the recording of statements at the Petaling Jaya police station.

TAN SRI HASMY AGAM,
Chairman
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

News source: http://mmail.com.my/content/45087-suhakam-regrets-police-arrests-30-gmi-activists-released

NATIONWIDE ANTI ISA RALLY IN CONJUCTION WITH 50 YEARS OF ISA: SUCCESS DESPITE OF POLICE BRUTALITY!

PRESS STATEMENT: 2 AUGUST 2010

NATIONWIDE ANTI ISA RALLY IN CONJUCTION WITH 50 YEARS OF ISA:  SUCCESS DESPITE OF POLICE BRUTALITY!

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) strongly condemns the abuse of police powers in cracking down on peaceful Anti ISA candlelight vigils held simultaneously at several states such as Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

POLICE BRUTALITY – A NEVER ENDING STORY!

The nationwide Anti ISA vigil was organized by GMI and SUARAM to oppose the Internal Security Act (ISA) in conjunction with the 50th anniversary since the ISA was enacted on 1st of August 1960. In total, 38 participants were arrested during the Anti ISA vigil including GMI Chairperson, Syed Ibrahim, and SUARAM Coordinators Nalini Elumalai, Ong Jing Cheng, Kohila (Secretariat Member), Choo Chon Kai (Penang Branch Secretariat Member) and Arutchelvan (Director of SUARAM). Although this number is comparatively lower than the Anti ISA Rally last year when 589 people including minors were arrested; the 38 arrests by the police yesterday were unnecessary as it was a peaceful vigil.

The police in Petaling Jaya, Penang and Kelantan were far more brutal and arrogant compared to the other states. Although intimidation by the police occurred in other states, the real “champion” of the brutality was the Petaling Jaya Police Chief Arjunaidi Mohamed. Arjunaidi was arrogant and completely unprofessional when dealing with the crowd. He did not allow time for the crowd to disperse or to put it bluntly; he did not know the proper process to disperse a peaceful assembly. In addition, his police officers were brutal and violent when arresting participants. Although the Bar Council and SUHAKAM Commissioners were monitoring the situation at the vigil, the actions of the police proved that they had complete disregard for the basic human rights.

These arrests are a case of abuse of power by the government machineries and a failure to protect and uphold the fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution. We are deeply shocked and disturbed by this blatant transgression of the rule of law.

THE ISA SHOULD BE REPEALED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT

Facing widespread criticism both at home and abroad, the ISA has badly damaged Malaysia’s reputation and this lead the government to finally propose a review of the ISA. However, it is clear that they have no intention of relinquishing this formidable and invaluable crutch of power. They are going all out to sell the idea of amendment, rather than repeal. Considering the history of the ISA, it seems very likely that these amendments will be minor and merely cosmetic, and will not achieve anything in terms of removing its elements of injustice and violation of human rights.

In conjunction with 50 years of ISA, we challenge the Prime Minister Najib Razak to abolish the ISA immediately. SUARAM and GMI will never compromise on the issue of detention without trial. All Acts which allow or have resulted in oppression, torture and abuse of people should have no place in the statutes, and should be abolished without delay. We once again remind the government that we will not stay quiet until we witness the draconian ISA abolished!

Demands Reiterated

SUARAM strongly urges the government to repeal all detention-without- trial laws as these legislations severely violate fundamental human rights. SUARAM also reiterate several other longstanding demands to the government, including:

The immediate establishment of an independent and effective oversight monitoring body to ensure accountability in the police force such as the Independent Police Commission on Misconduct and Complaints (IPCMC) as recommended by the Royal Police Commission

SUARAM and GMI also would like to take this opportunity to thank all the brave Malaysians who turned up yesterday to support the call of the abolition of the ISA. In addition, we would like extend our gratitude to SUHAKAM and Bar Council Human Rights Committee for sending official monitoring teams and finally, to the lawyers from the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre for their roles in upholding Human Rights in Malaysia.

Salam Perjuangan.

Released by,

Nalini.E
SUARAM Coordinator and GMI Secretariat

50 CONTROVERSIAL YEARS OF THE ISA – THE ISA MUST BE ABOLISHED, NOT AMENDED

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA- PRESS STATEMENT: 26th July 2010

 

50 CONTROVERSIAL YEARS OF THE ISA –
THE ISA MUST BE ABOLISHED, NOT AMENDED

50 Years of the ISA
On 1 August, the Internal Security Act (ISA) will have been in existence for 50
years. The ISA was enacted in 1960 on the premise that it was needed to address
the threat posed by the Communist movement. The original Act incorporated
various mechanisms to prevent its abuse, including provision for judicial
review. A promise was also made that it would be used solely to counter the
armed Communist insurgency. Eventually the Communists laid down their arms, but
the ISA remained on the books, and is still in force today. It was even
“enhanced” in 1989 when the provision of judicial review was removed, rendering
it even more unjust and controversial.

The scope of the ISA has also been broadened; the list of its “victims” has
grown ever longer. Over the years it has been used to detain people said to be
members of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), KMM (Malaysian Militant Group), the Al-Maunah
and Al-Arqam groups, Shiah adherents, political activists, reform activists,
students and human rights activists. It has even been used to detain people
alleged to have forged identity cards, cloned telephones, made counterfeit coins
and harbored illegal immigrants – cases which have been considered very
controversial.

The ISA has become a ready tool to be used in place of professional, thorough
and painstaking investigation by the police. In addition, the reasons and
process of arrest under the ISA, as well as the methods of interrogation used,
have often clearly contravened humanitarian and religious principles. In short,
the entire set-up is riddled with controversy. Every arrest made under the ISA
represents a failure on the part of the police to conduct investigations which
fulfill the criteria required by the Attorney General to proceed with
prosecution. This collaboration between the police and the Home Ministry to
curtail the proper process of justice is in itself a gross injustice, by any
standard.

The ISA has also long been used by the ruling coalition to suppress political
dissent. It has been used to punish critics, to try and silence dissenting
voices, cover up their corrupt and unethical practices, and deflect pressure
from the international community. All this is done in the name of “national
security”, but instead constitutes a deliberate hobbling of the country’s system
of justice. To their way of thinking, the interests of national security
override the principles of justice, and this in itself is controversial.

THE ISA SHOULD BE REPEALED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
Facing widespread criticism both at home and abroad – the ISA has badly damaged
Malaysia’s reputation – the government has finally proposed to review the ISA.
However, it is clear that they have no intention of relinquishing this
formidable and invaluable crutch of power. They are going all out to sell the
idea of amendment, rather than repeal. Considering the history of the ISA, it
seems very likely that these amendments will be minor and merely cosmetic, and
will not achieve anything in terms of removing its elements of injustice and
abuse of human rights.

At the present time, 16 people are still being detained under the ISA. The
longest-standing detainee is Shamsuddin Sulaiman, alleged to be a member of JI,
who has been detained for more than 8 years. The newest detainee, arrested on 15
July 2010, is Fadzullah Bin Abdul Razak, alleged to be a terrorist. Since April
2009, a total of 12 people have been detained under the ISA. This is despite the
fact that in April 2009 the Prime Minister announced that a number of ISA
detainees would be released and the ISA itself reviewed.

The review of the ISA has been limited to only five aspects, and the proposed
amendments to the Act, promised for more than a year, have yet to be tabled in
Parliament. The five aspects are: detention without trial; the broad powers of
the minister; the length of detention allowed; the rights and treatment of
detainees; and the public perception that the ISA is used as a tool of political
oppression. GMI would like to expand on these five aspects.

a) Detention without trial
Detention under the ISA is not protected by effective judicial review. The
court only allows a challenge to be mounted based on technical grounds,
that is, habeas corpus; there is no avenue to challenge the grounds of arrest.
In many cases there has been no sound reason to invoke the ISA, since the
charges could have been dealt with under existing criminal laws.

b) Powers of the Minister
The power currently invested in the Minister to decide to detain a person for
a period of two years is clearly far too broad. It also implies that the
Minister has no respect for the judicial process or for the executive arm of the
government. It thus fails to adhere to the principle of separation of powers.

c) The Period of detention
The 60-day period of detention is used for interrogation of detainees by Special
Branch officers, who routinely employ physically and psychologically abusive
methods. A person should only be detained if there is evidence against him/her,
and if the police fail to come up with such evidence the person should be
released. As a matter of principle, no-one should be detained for 60 days
without recourse to judicial process.

d) Rights and treatment of detainees
Both GMI and SUARAM have gathered and published extensive documentary evidence
of abuse and torture of ISA detainees. During the 60-day detention period
detainees are denied access to lawyers, and there have been a number of cases
where detainees were not informed of their rights at the time of their arrest.
The authorities justify torture and abuse by saying that it is necessary for the
successful completion of the investigation. In addition, detainees and their
families are often subjected to pressure and psychological abuse.

e) Public perception of misuse of the ISA for political purposes
It is common knowledge that many of those arrested under the ISA have been
political activists and dissidents, or anyone who has criticized the government
and its policies.

GMI is of the firm opinion that amending these five aspects alone will not
prevent the ruling coalition from continuing to abuse the ISA in this manner to
perpetuate its hold on power. The only way to restore public confidence would be
to repeal the ISA, ensure that police carry out their investigations in a
professional manner, ensure that judicial oversight is not excluded, and for the
government to uphold norms and principles of justice and human rights.

The People’s Role in Repealing the ISA
Public pressure in demanding the repeal of the ISA is crucial. The importance of
the support and active engagement of the people, regardless of political
affiliation, religion or ethnic and social background, cannot be overstated. The
Abolish ISA Rally held on 1 August 2009 was witness to the effectiveness of such
broad public participation.

Accordingly, GMI will continue to invite the people to play an active role in
this campaign. To mark the 50th anniversary of the ISA, GMI is organizing a
series of events, among them are:

1. Arts Night: “Detention without Trial”, to be held on 24 July 2010, at the
MBPJ Multipurpose Hall in Jalan Nuri, Section 7, Kota Damansara, starting at 8
pm.

2. Distribution of leaflets simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur and state
capitals, on 1 August.

3. Candle-light vigils to be held simultaneously at locations around the
country, also on 1 August.

4. The People’s Demands
GMI will never compromise in the issue of detention without trial. All Acts
which allow or have resulted in oppression, torture and abuse of people should
have no place on the statute books, and should be abolished without delay.

All groups and organizations which are part of the GMI coalition are urged to
give their support to the demands listed below, in an effort to maximize support
from all partners.

We hereby demand that the government:
1. Abolish all existing unjust laws such as the ISA, EO (Emergency
Ordinance), DDA (Dangerous Drugs Act), and the RRA (Restricted Residence Act),
with immediate effect. All of these laws go against the spirit of the Federal
Constitution, as well as contravene Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (1981). This appeal is in keeping with similar
recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) and
the Malaysian Commission for Human Rights (SUHAKAM), as well as by various other
human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights
Watch (HRW), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), and the Islamic
Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

2. Either releases, or charges in an open court, all those currently detained
without trial.

3. Close down immediately all detention centres for detainees held without
trial, such as Kamunting and Simpang Renggam.

4. Awards compensation to all those who have been detained without trial, for
being unjustly deprived of their liberty and denied their due rights.

5. Makes a public apology to all such detainees, past and present, and
compensates them for the injustice, abuse and suffering inflicted on them during
and as a result of their detention.

6. Utilize instead existing criminal laws such as the following:
a. Section 489B of the Penal Code: counterfeiting money;
b. Section 56 of the Immigration Act: falsifying passports;
c. Section 298A of the Penal Code: issuing statements or spreading rumours
to incite religious hatred;
d. Section 499 of the Penal Code: issuing statements to incite racial hatred;
e. Section 499 of the Penal Code: distributing false information; or
f. Chapter VIA of the Penal Code: terrorist offences.

7. Investigates all complaints and cases of abuse, torture, inhuman treatment
and abuse of power perpetrated on any detainees, past or present; prosecutes
those responsible and sets up a Royal Commission to conduct investigations.

8. Debates the SUHAKAM Annual Reports in Parliament and implements its
recommendations.

9. Recognizes respects and restores the proper powers of the judiciary, as an
independent body, to provide a check and balance on the power of the police and
executive, and repeals all laws which have removed such judicial oversight.

Released By,
Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)