Changes to Immigration Detention Centres Must Respect Human Rights

Press Statement: 26 August 2010

SUARAM welcomes the Malaysian Government’s move to review the management and upgrade the facilities of Immigration Detention Centres. National and international human rights organisations have long raised concerns regarding the deplorable conditions and poor management of detention centres but up until now, the Government has repeatedly denied such claims. By acknowledging the dire conditions at the detention centres, it stands to reason that the Government can no longer ignore this issue.

It was announced that the Government intends to revamp the detention centres within the next 3 months. However, SUARAM is concerned about some aspects of the announced plans which are as follows:

1.      Reinstating RELA to manage security
In November 2007, when the management of immigration detention centres were transferred from the Prisons Department to the Immigration Department, RELA personnel were deployed as the Immigration Department lacked personnel. Mid-2009 onwards, RELA personnel were withdrawn from the detention centres. During the period that RELA assisted in managing the detention centres, there were many allegations of poor treatment of detainees by RELA personnel, including verbal, psychological and physical abuse.

SUARAM is disappointed that the Government has made a u-turn on this decision by now including RELA in the management of the detention centres again. We have repeatedly argued that RELA personnel should not be given powers to act as law enforcement agencies as they do not have adequate training.

2.      Explore alternatives to detention
As most migrants detained in immigration detention centres are detained for flouting immigration laws and are not criminals, detention should be used as a last resort. If there is a need for them to be held for processing purposes, alternatives to detention must be explored such as those currently practiced in Australia, including community detention or case management[1].

Detention should not be the first option particularly when it comes to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, children and trafficked victims. Refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and trafficked victims cannot be deported, and as such should be released.

3.      Security should not be the main concern
Based on news reports, it seems like the Government is more concerned about the security aspect of immigration detention centres rather than the welfare of the detainees. SUARAM is of the view that adequate attention must be given to fulfilling the basic rights of the detainees. These include providing clothing, bedding, adequate clean water, sufficient diet, on-site access to health care, personal sanitary supplies, and daily activities.

In line with these serious concerns, SUARAM calls on the Government to:

  • Stop the use of RELA in the management of immigration detention centres.
  • Stop the detention of refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, trafficked victims and children.
  • Explore alternatives to detention as a method to minimise the use of detention as first resort for those who have violated immigration laws.
  • Ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the management of immigration detention centres complies with international human rights standards such as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
  • Hold regular consultations with civil society and stakeholders to openly discuss and receive recommendations on how to improve the management of immigration detention centres.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Coordinator

[1]International Detention Coalition (2009) “Case management as an alternative to immigration detention: The Australian Experience”, at http://idcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/casemanagementinaustralia.pdf, accessed 25 April 2010.

FASTING MONTH BEGINS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: ANOTHER 3 ARRESTED UNDER THE ISA!

 

PRESS STATEMENT: 11 AUGUST 2010

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) are astonished to learn of the latest arrest under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) on the first day of the Ramadhan fasting month.

To invoke the ISA against these individuals is absolutely against the fundamental principles of human rights, justice and international human rights standards.

Those 3 are known as:

  1. Mustawan Ahbab (34) Indonesian
  2. Samsul Hamidi (34) Malaysian
  3. Seikh Abdullah Sheikh Junaidi (70) Malaysian

They were arrested under the Section 73 (1) of ISA alleged to be involved in International terrorist link. Earlier on the 15th July, the government had arrested Mohamad Fadzullah Bin Abbul Razak, (28). He is alleged to be involved in international terrorist networking.

GMI and SUARAM strongly condemn the new arrest under the ISA. The Government must guarantee safety of the detainee and he should be allowed legal assistance immediately. Under the ISA, detainees can be held for up to 60 days in secret locations and in solitary confinement, often in a windowless cell where they lose all sense of time and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

GMI and SUARAM values that the security of the country is of utmost importance and does not condone any terrorist activities, but one’s entitlement to a fair trial should not be deprived on any basis. If the Government has evidence against the suspect, we urge the government to charge him in an open court; otherwise, he should be released without any delay and unconditionally.

It is a shame that the Government is again practicing double standards on issues related to ISA. On one hand, it plans to review the ISA but on the other hand, new detention is carried out discreetly as no prior announc
ements were made. This incident exhibits yet again the true colours of the ISA, which is extremely arbitrary and has been abused in the pretext of national security. We demand the government to release all detainees immediately or charge them in open court.

GMI and SUARAM urge the people of Malaysia to demand for the release of all ISA detainees and for the abolition of the ISA once and for all. For 50 years the ISA has been the dark shadow haunting human rights in Malaysia. Let us fight for our rights and for a better Malaysia without the ISA which allows detention without trial.

Abolish the ISA!!!

Release all ISA detainees!!!

Close KEMTA!!!

Released by,

Nalini.E

GMI Secretariat and SUARAM Coordinator

Federal Court Decision on Former ISA Detainee Abdul Malek Husin: A Negative Development on Human Rights Development in Malaysia

Press Statement: 12 August 2010

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) expresses its grave disappointment and expresses serious concern over the Federal Court judgment today which overturned a RM2.5 million award to former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Abdul Malek Husin following an appeal by the Malaysian government.

The Federal court reversed the High Court decision and the Federal Court has upheld the Court of Appeal ruling to overturn a High Court decision his suit against the government. The Federal Court thus ruled that Malek Husin will not receive the damages awarded to him by the High Court and ordered Malek Husin instead to pay RM20, 000 in costs. It’s a total setback to the former detainee and also for the rest of the Malaysians. He was detained without trial for 57days under the ISA; he was tortured, beaten up & now to pay costs RM 20k. Something is really wrong with our judges and judiciary system in Malaysia!

Suaram is of the view that the judgement sets a negative bench mark on human rights development in Malaysia as the court refuse to even hear a fundamental question pertaining Article 5 of the Federal Constitution as it went on to reject the leave application citing Court of Judicature Act. Suaram feels that courts failed to exercise its jurisdiction to address fundamental constitutional rights and civil liberties by choosing to adopt technical grounds per se.

The judgement reaffirms the current worsening culture of impunity and torture by further granting a 20,000 RM cost over a public interest litigation seeking justice over his rights and fundamental liberties that was purportedly violated by the most notorious undemocratic law of the nation. The message sent by the courts is that the only mechanism available to make police actions accountable is laden with risk of reverse punishment in form of a cost. Suaram views that all public interest litigations should not burden litigants with cost or fear of cost in addressing the legal remedy over one’s Constitutional rights and freedom.

The Federal not only refused to hear a question of fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution but it also went on to punish the person for raising it. The judgement is the biggest blow to our judicial integrity since the controversial Lingam Tape and the controversial appointment of UMNO linked lawyer Tan Sri Zaki Azmi as the Chief Justice of Malaya.

Court Rules In Favour of Human Rights Violators!

SUARAM also views this as another dire attempt by the government to defend the indefensible ISA which allows detention without trial. It is a known fact that all ISA detainees are subjected to severe psychological torture and put in solitary confinement in their 60 days detention. Detention without trial for such a long period without any access to lawyers, family and the outside world is itself a cruel maltreatment to the detainees. Many amongst them, like Male Husin, have been subjected to physical torture while in detention.

Malaysia Accepts Torture?

The Federal Court judgement today, rejecting the findings of the High Court that Abdul Malek was indeed tortured while in detention, did nothing more than to reaffirm the acceptance of torture in the country not only by the Malaysian government – which has still to date refused to ratify the UN’s Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) – but also by the Malaysian judiciary!

SUARAM strongly urges the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the CAT. SUARAM finds no reason for the refusal of the government to do so but for its acceptance of torture as a punishment in the country!

Abolish the ISA!

The absence of judicial checks and balances in ISA detentions has also exacerbated the abuses of power by the police who can get away with impunity. Malaysia cannot call itself a democratic country when there is such a law that permits detention without trial and gross violation of human rights.

SUARAM reiterates its demand that the government abolishes the ISA frees all detainees or accords them a fair trial. SUARAM stands strongly against any law that provides for detention without trial.

Last but not least, SUARAM reaffirms that it will build on the struggles, sacrifices and perseverance of the numerous courageous ex-ISA detainees and their families who have stood up against the draconian law. With the support of the people, SUARAM will continue the struggle until the ISA is finally abolished.

Released by,

Nalini, E.
SUARAM Coordinator

Background

Abdul Malek Husin was arrested on the night of September 25, 1998 after addressing a demonstration earlier that afternoon in Masjid Negara. He accused the police of severely assaulting him, physically and mentally.

In the past trial, Malek Husin told the court that he was slapped by the respondent, Borhan bin Haji Daud when he was arrested. Then he was stripped naked and blindfolded during the interrogation period. He was physically assaulted for about 60 times, beaten-up and hit hard on the head until he passed out. He was also forced to swallow liquid with terrible stench, which deemed to be urine. His interrogators also threatened to inject him with the HIV/AIDs virus.

Malek Husin filed his suit civil suit in March 1999, naming special branch officer Borhan Daud, the then police chief Abdul Rahim Noor and the government as respondents. On 18 October 2007, then Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus, ruled that Malek Husin’s detention during the Reformasi demonstrations in 1998, were made in bad faith under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution. He was rewarded RM 2.5 Million for the damages.

On the 25th March, The Court of Appeal’s convened by a panel of three judges, reversed the High Court decision and ruled that Malek Husin detention was lawful and rejected his allegations of torture while in custody. The Court of Appeal thus ruled that Malek Husin will not receive the damages awarded to him by the High Court and ordered Malek Husin instead to pay RM50, 000 in costs.

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.

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