PENAN SUPPORT GROUP – Press Release: 6 July 2010 – NO MORE DENIALS: NGO FACT FINDING MISSION REVEALS MORE SEXUAL ABUSE CASES AMONG PENAN COMMUNITIES

Following the findings of the National Taskforce Report of September 2009 (Laporan Jawatankuasa Bertindak Peringkat Kebangsaan Bagi Menyiasat Dakwaan Penderaan Seksual Terhadap Wanita Kaum Penan Di Sarawak), which confirmed cases of sexual violence and exploitation of Penan women and girls, a group of non-government organisations set out to investigate further the situation in Sarawak when informed that there were other Penan  women and their families who wanted to share their stories of sexual violence and exploitation.

Furthermore the NGOs were motivated to document new evidence in light ofSarawak state government leaders’ repeated refusals to acknowledge that Penan girls were sexually abused by timber workers and their apparent rejection of the National Taskforce Report findings.

The report entitled A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women and Girls in Middle and Ulu Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia is the result of a fact-finding mission by the Penan Support Group, FORUM-ASIA and Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN).

The fact-finding mission visited three (3) Penan communities and one (1) Kenyah community and listened to evidence from a further thirteen (13) Penan communities.

The mission found that women were willing to share their stories, but they did not want to go to the authorities owing to the police’s lackadaisical responses in the past and further obstacles including the lack of identity cards, language barriers and the prohibitive cost of travel.

Seven (7) previously undocumented cases are described in the report.  The cases all point to systematic patterns of violence.  Themes include harassment, abduction, rape, physical assault, emotional abuse, coercion into marriage and desertion upon pregnancy.

The documentation of these cases refutes those who in the past rejected the veracity of the Penan women’s claims.

The purpose of the report is not only to record instances of sexual violence and rape, it is also to contextualise these crimes in the political situation in Middle and Ulu Baram, Sarawak.  This report further confirms that the treatment of the Penan people is intrinsically tied to the wider political situation and demands a political solution.

This wider context within which the sexual violence has taken place includes the systemic undermining of the autonomy and sustainability of the Penan people, which is caused by:

  • the denial of their land rights;
  • the denial of basic citizenship rights for many through a failure to register and issue ID cards;
  • state neglect of their welfare including a failure to guarantee adequate access to basic services such as education and health care; and
  • state failure to provide a supporting environment of the right to redress.

The situation facing Penan communities has been documented previously in various reports over the years.  The impact of logging and ‘land development’ on the Penan communities, their land and their rights was detailed in the NGO report “Not Development, but Theft” in 2000.  The SUHAKAM Report (2007) on Penan in Ulu Belaga highlights the abject poverty in which many Penan communities live and states clearly that the Sarawak state government, as the primary duty bearer, is chiefly responsible to ensure the Penan people’s right to life and standard of living.  The National Taskforce Report (2009), while confirming the allegations of sexual abuse, also makes reference to the poverty the community faces, as well as the lack of access to health care and education among other issues.

The lack of respect and protection afforded to Penan women and girls, as can be seen by their various experiences of sexual violence and exploitation, is tied to the lack of respect and protection shown to the Penan community as a whole.

The report provides recommendations for all sectors of the Malaysian community, including the federal and Sarawak governments, the federal parliament and the Sarawak state assembly, intergovernmental bodies, SUHAKAM, non-government organisations and Bursa Malaysia.  These recommendations aim to support changes resulting in a future where Penan communities have the power to determine the direction and pace of their development, secure in their land and communities and respected for their culture, and above all, enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

For further inquiries, please contact John Liu of SUARAM at +60377843525.

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)

Kendalikan Inkues terhadap semua kes Kematian dalam Tahanan dengan Segera!

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) mengutuk tindakan  Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) atas satu lagi kes kematian dalam tahanan iaitu saudara P.Babu yang berumur 28 tahun dalam lokap Ibupejabat Polis Daerah Jempol, Negeri Sembilan.

Mengikut keterangan saudara kepada mangsa, M. Mahadevan, 35,P.Babu dijangka telah terlibat  dalam beberapa kes samun pada 26 Januari 2010 di kawasan Ladang Bahau. Selepas dicari oleh pihak polis, maka  mangsa bersama dengan rakannya telah menyerah diri kepada polis pada 28 januari 2010 untuk membantu Polis dalam siasatan.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) mengutuk tindakan  Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) atas satu lagi kes kematian dalam tahanan iaitu saudara P.Babu yang berumur 28 tahun dalam lokap Ibupejabat Polis Daerah Jempol, Negeri Sembilan.

Mengikut keterangan saudara kepada mangsa, M. Mahadevan, 35,P.Babu dijangka telah terlibat  dalam beberapa kes samun pada 26 Januari 2010 di kawasan Ladang Bahau. Selepas dicari oleh pihak polis, maka  mangsa bersama dengan rakannya telah menyerah diri kepada polis pada 28 januari 2010 untuk membantu Polis dalam siasatan.

Namun demikian, P babu didapati telah mati dalam lokap pada 1hb Februari 2010 atas alsasan beliau membunuh diri di lokap dengan menggunakan baju lokap yang dipakai oleh mangsa. Malah, mengikut keluarga mangsa, pihak polis hanya memberitahu kematian mangsa P. Babu hanya selepas proses bedah siasat habis dijalankan. Suaram mempunyai beberapa soalan dalam perkara ini. Dimanakah pegawai polis yang bertugas berada ketika mangsa bunuh diri? Mengapakah pihak polis mengambil tempoh masa yang begitu lama untuk memaklumkan kepada pihak keluarga mangsa? Apakah  hasil daripada bedah siasat yang dijalankan?

Maka, SUARAM amat meragui punca kes kematian P.Babu yang dikatakan membunuh diri dan sekaligus tidak dapat menerima alasan pihak polis yang menyatakan bahawa CCTV di lokap tersebut telah rosak pada hari kejadian .  SUARAM  mengesa kerajaan menjalankan  inkues serta membenarkan  bedah siasat untuk  kali kedua bagi mengetahui punca  kematian P.Babu. Pihak polis perlu bertanggungjawab terhadap segala kes kematian dalam tahanan kerana adalah tanggugjawab polis untuk menjaga OKT(orang kena tahan) dalam keadaan sihat seperti yang dinyatakan dalam Akta Kaedah-Kaedah Lokap(L.N.3289/1958)(4).

Kes kematian dalam tahanan ini adalah bukan yang pertama. Malah, sehingga kini satu penyiasatan yang menyeluruh dan terperinci tidak pernah dijalankan terhadap mana-mana kes kematian dalam tahanan polis  yang dilaporkan. SUARAM berpandangan kes kematian dalan tahanan polis adalah satu isu yang amat berat dan menyalahi undang-undang Hak Asasi Antarabangsa.

Maka dengan ini SUARAM  menyeru agar kerajaan:

1. Segera melaksanakan  IPCMC iaitu  Suruhanjaya Bebas Salahlaku dan Aduan Polis yang dicadangkan oleh Suruhanjaya Diraja Penambahbaikan Perjalanan dan Pengurusan Polis Diraja Malaysia yang bersifat bebas serta telus dan adil

2. Wujudkan Mahkamah koroner yang bebas untuk meyiasat segala kes kematian dalam tahanan dan inkues yang terbuka perlu dijalankan dengan serta merta bagi setiap kes kematian dalam tahanan.

3. Membawa semua pihak yang terlibat dan bertanggungjawab dalam kes Kematian tahanan sebelum ini dan termasuk P. Babu untuk dibawa ke muka pengadilan dengan segera.
Yang bertugas,
Lucas Yap Heng Lung
Penyelaras SUARAM