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

Press Statement: 21 June 2010 Gov’t Must Act Immediately on UN’s Call for the Repeal of Detention-without-Trial Laws and End to Detention of Refugees & Asylum Seekers

The initial findings and recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) from its country visit to Malaysia from 7 to 18 June 2010 have added to the long list of recommendations and concerns pertaining to the Malaysian government’s legislations, policies and practices of arbitrary detention.

“Classic Cases of Arbitrary Detention” under ISA, EO, DDA, RRA
Among its initial findings of its visit, the WGAD stated that it is “seriously concerned” about the existence and enforcement of laws which provide for detention without trial in Malaysia, namely the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EO), the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA), and the Restricted Residence Act (RRA).

The WGAD stated that these laws “deny the detainee the right to a fair and public hearing” and “severely restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel”.

During the press conference held by the WGAD on 18 June 2010, its Chairperson-Rapporteur El Hadji Malick Sow stated that detentions under the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA are “classic cases of arbitrary detention”. The WGAD also noted with concern that “thousands of people” are being detained under the EO and the DDA.

“Systematic” Detention of Refugees
Also of concern to the WGAD is the detention of refugees and asylum seekers. The WGAD’s Chairperson-Rapporteur described the detention of refugees as “systematic”, noting that even refugees who are in possession of identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not exempted from arrests and detentions.

Malaysia’s non-ratification of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and non-recognition of the status of refugees and asylum seekers have resulted in the detention of many refugees under immigration laws in Malaysia for their alleged “illegal presence” in Malaysian territory. The WGAD noted that detainees who have served prison sentences under immigration laws are often held in immigration detention centres for an indefinite period while awaiting deportation to their countries of origin.

Recommendations Not New, No Reason for Delay in Implementation
While the WGAD’s final report will only be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011, its initial recommendations are clear enough for the government to make immediate efforts for improvements.

Furthermore,similar recommendations have already been made in the past by other bodies – such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police, and various UN member states. As such, there is no justification for the government not to implement the WGAD’s recommendations immediately, especially in view of its status as an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council. Moreover, since it was the Malaysian government that invited the WGAD for this visit, it must also be consistent with such commitment by implementing the recommendations made.

Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws
On detention-without-trial laws, the WGAD recommended that the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA be repealed. The WGAD further noted that even if these laws are not repealed, the government must ensure that they are amended to the extent that they are in conformity with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out the guarantees of the right of every individual to a fair trial.

In other words, even if the government wishes to amend the detention-without-trial laws instead of repealing them, the amendments must ensure that all persons must be accorded a fair trial before being detained. This effectively means that the government must end its practice of detaining
individuals without trial.

Hence, while the government has announced its intention to amend the ISA, the EO, and the DDA, any changes which will merely reduce the periods of detention – including the initial investigative period of detention (currently 60 days) and the subsequent detention order by the Home Ministry (currently 2 years) – would not adequately fulfill the recommendations of the WGAD.

SUARAM thus strongly calls upon the government to immediately re-look into the proposed amendments to all the detention-without-trial laws with additional consideration of the WGAD’s recommendations to do away with the practice of detaining individuals without trial. Ultimately, the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA must be repealed.

At the same time, the government should immediately end the arrests made under the detention-without-trial laws, and release all individuals who are currently detained under these laws or charge them in a fair and open court.

End Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Other Vulnerable Migrants On the detention of immigrants, the WGAD stated that “detention of immigrants should be decided upon by a court of law, on a case by case basis, and pursuant to clearly and exhaustively defined criteria in legislation”. The WGAD stressed that immigrants should have an effective remedy to challenge the necessity and legality of their detention at any time.

The WGAD also stressed that immigration detention should not be applied to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, or people with serious and/or chronic physical or mental health problems.

The Malaysian government has also been urged by the WGAD to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a recommendation which has already been made on numerous occasions by SUHAKAM as well as UN member states during the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia in February 2009.

SUARAM strongly urges the government to immediately implement these recommendations, especially in refraining from the arrests of refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups of migrants. The government should also immediately provide a concrete timeframe for the ratification of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Invite UN Experts in Other Areas Too
Lastly, while the WGAD expressed its gratitude towards the Malaysian government for its invitation which made the visit possible, and while being fully aware of the fact that the visit of the WGAD as well as other Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council cannot be made without the host government’s invitation, SUARAM wishes to point out that the WGAD had in fact made a request for a country visit to Malaysia way back in 2008. It was only in early 2010 that the Malaysian government officially and publicly confirmed its acceptance of the WGAD’s request to visit Malaysia.

To date, the Malaysian government still has not responded to eight pending requests by other
Special Procedures Mandate Holders, namely the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (request made in 2002); the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples (2005); the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion (2006); the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants (2006); the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism (2005); the Independent Expert on Minority Issues (2007 and 2009); the Special Rapporteur on Racism (2008); and Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (2009).

SUARAM therefore calls upon the Malaysian government to extend standing invitations to all Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council, with particular urgency in responding to the eight mandate holders which have made requests for country visits to Malaysia.

Released by,
John Liu
Coordinator