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)

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

Detained without Trial for Fighting: Draconian EO Must Be Abolished

SUARAM strongly condemns the detention of the Vikneswaran Venugopal under Section 3 (i) of the Emergency Ordinance (Public Order and Crime Prevention) since 11 June 2010 for alleged involvement in a fight.

SUARAM deeply regrets that Vikneswaran, the latest of the countless number of victims of detention-without-trial laws in Malaysia, has not been given access to lawyers and his family since the day he was detained under the EO. SUARAM strongly and urgently calls upon the government to immediately provide the detainee with access to legal counsel and his family immediately.

Release Vikneswaran or Charge Him!

SUARAM strongly urges the police to charge the detainee immediately or release him unconditionally. The detainee must be accorded his right to an open trial with legal representation.

While SUARAM recognises the responsibility of the Malaysian government to curb crime and to deal with criminals, gangs and syndicates, there is no justification whatsoever for the government to resort to detaining suspects without trial in its efforts to address criminal activities, or any crime for that matter. SUARAM stresses that there are ample laws in Malaysia which could adequately deal with the various crimes and offences for which the government currently detains individuals without trial.

SUARAM reiterates that the detention of any individual without trial is a gross violation of fundamental human rights under Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and the Federal Constitution, which guarantee due process and security of persons.

Amendments and UN Visit: Malaysia’s Failed Public Relations Exercise

While the government has announced its plans to amend the three detention-without-trial laws in the country, the detention of Vikneswaran among the many recent detentions under the EO demonstrates that the government has no intention to make any progress towards complying with universally-accepted human rights standards of the right to fair trial.

SUARAM further notes that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is currently visiting Malaysia to study the situation of arbitrary detentions in the country. As such, SUARAM calls upon the Working Group to take note of the latest arrest.
That such an arbitrary detention was made even during the visit of the Working Group to Malaysia – a time when the Malaysian government is likely to seek to improve its reputation over such detentions in the eyes of international observers – only goes to show that the rampant use of the EO by the Malaysian government cannot be hidden.

Thus, the Malaysian government’s proposed amendments to the three detention-without-trial laws and its acceptance of the visit of the Working Group, seemingly aimed at improving its image of human rights compliance, are turning out to be a futile exercise as this latest EO detention clearly demonstrates the government’s unchanged position on detention without trial.

End Detention without Trial Now!

SUARAM wishes to reiterate its position that all detention-without-trial laws – the EO, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA) – must be repealed. In the same vein, SUARAM strongly urges the government to release all who are currently being detained under any of the three detention-without-trial laws, or charge them in a fair and open court of law.

Released by,
Nalini.E
SUARAM Coordinator

Resume water supply at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre

(Press Statement: 14 June 2010 )

SUARAM has been informed that detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre have been on a hunger strike since evening of Saturday, 12 June, as a protest against the lack of water supply in the detention centre. The hunger strike started when immigration officers denied the detainees drinking water when asked by the detainees. There has been no water supply at the detention centre for the past 5 days.

According to our source, there are an estimated 1,500 detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre. The estimated 500 Burmese asylum seekers in the detention centre will continue the hunger strike until they are given access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

SUARAM has previously expressed our deep concern with regards to the deplorable conditions of Immigration Detention Centres. This is not the first time that we have received complaints that water supply to detention centres is irregular and inadequate. Denying the detainees access to drinking water is an outrageous violation of a basic human right. Even persons in detention have fundamental right to adequate standard of living, which includes adequate and constant supply of water for consumption and maintenance of personal hygiene, as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Detainees at immigration detention centres often fall ill due to the poor conditions that often cause malnourishment and poor immune system amongst detainees. The non-supply of water, coupled with the deplorable conditions of the detention centres could potentially cause the increase the risk of illnesses amongst the individuals.

SUARAM demands that the Government immediately restores water supply to Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre and to ensure that water supply to all detention centres are regular, adequate and clean. The Government must ensure that conditions in all detention centres comply with minimum international standards for places of detention.

SUARAM urges the Immigration Department to immediately provide the asylum seekers access to 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 in to UNHCR’s official care.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Coordinator
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)