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

PRESS RELEASE-MALAYSIA: 50 Draconian Years under the Internal Security Act (ISA) – Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws Now!

 SUARAM - OMCT - FIDH (Under embargo until Sunday 1st August 2010 0h01 Kuala Lumpur time)  PRESS RELEASE MALAYSIA: 50 Draconian Years under the Internal Security Act (ISA) – Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws Now! Kuala Lumpur – Geneva - Paris, 1st August 2010. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Internal Security Act (ISA), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and their member organisation in Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), jointly reiterate their call on the Government of Malaysia to take all necessary measures to repeal this law and release all individuals still detained under the ISA.  
Since its enactment in 1960, succeeding emergency laws aimed at combating the communist insurgency during the 1940s and 1950s, the ISA has facilitated serious human rights abuses, including torture and ill-treatment, and has therefore been repeatedly denounced, including by local human rights groups in Malaysia and again recently, in June, by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during its mission to Malaysia[1].  The ISA, which allows for arrest without warrant and detention without trial for a term of two years renewable indefinitely in clear violation ofinternationally recognised human rights standards relating to fair trials, has been invoked against those who commit acts deemed to be “prejudicial to the security of Malaysia”, or threatening to the “maintenance of essential services” or “economic life”. These vaguely defined security notions have led to the frequent use of the law against citizens peacefully expressing their religious and political beliefs, as well as a number of human rights defenders. In 2009, the authorities made some welcoming moves, including the release of 40 ISA detainees from Kamunting detention camp (of which at least five were human rights defenders[2]) and the announcement that the law will be amended based on feedback obtained from various stakeholders. However, at the same time, new arrests under the ISA have been documented by SUARAM. 16 individuals are currently detained under the ISA in Malaysia – among which 14 were detained after the Government had announced its review of the legislation. Furthermore, no major local human rights groups, including the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) Movement[3] and SUARAM, have been properly consulted in the amendments process despite the fact that these groups have been active on the issue for many years. These contradictory signs seem to indicate the Government’s lack of sincerity in reviewing the ISA and its intention to retain the archaic and draconian legislation. On the occasion of the anniversary of the draconian ISA, OMCT, FIDH and SUARAM also express gravest concerns over other existing emergency and anti-subversion laws which also provide for indefinite detention without trial, namely the Emergency Ordinance 1969 (EO) and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1985 (DDA). As of February 2010, 819 individuals were detained without trial under the EO, while 412 were incarcerated under the DDA – giving a total of more than 1,200 individuals detained without trial in Malaysia. OMCT, FIDH and SUARAM thus strongly reiterate their call to the Government of Malaysia to take the necessary steps to repeal the ISA and all other detention-without-trial laws in order to respect fundamental rights and freedoms.  
While the Government has announced that the ISA would be amended, OMCT, FIDH and SUARAM strongly note their position that all detention-without-trial laws must be repealed and not amended, even more as they deal with the various offences covered by other existing legislations which are more in line with international human rights standards as compared to the draconian ISA, EO and DDA. OMCT, FIDH and SUARAM further urge the Government to immediately release all remaining individuals detained under the ISA and other detention-without-trial laws in the absence of valid legal charges and judicial process consistent with international legal standards, orif such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.  Finally, OMCT, FIDH and SUARAM call upon the Government and the police force to uphold their commitment to put an immediate end to the continued crackdown on the Malaysian civil society, notably in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Noting the harsh crackdown on the anti-ISA rally which was held exactly one year ago (which saw 589 persons, including juveniles, arrested by the police), our organisations strongly call upon the Malaysian Government to authorise the candlelight vigils that will be held against the ISA, on 1st August 2010, in several cities and towns nationwide and condemn any form of repression of the upcoming peaceful protests. The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) must also play its role in monitoring any possible violations during the candlelight vigils on 1st August 2010 – a task which the Commission had failed to fulfil despite several requests to do so during harsh crackdown on the 2009 anti-ISA rally.  Contact: SUARAM: Nalini. E, Tel. + 6 03 7784 3525, Email: suaram (at)suaram(dot)netOMCT: Alexandra Kossin, Tel. +41 22 809 49 39, Email: omct(at)omct(dot)org  FIDH: Fabien Maitre, Tel. + 33 1 43 55 90 19

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)