Suhakam regrets police arrests, 30 GMI activists released

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 22:58:00 (malay mail)

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commision of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) expresses its regret over the inability of the public to assemble peacefully during the 50 years of ISA vigil that took place on Aug 1 at Dataran Petaling Jaya. SUHAKAM was present at the event to observe and monitor the situation.

SUHAKAM, through its observation, found that the right to assembly was denied during the event as the authorities stopped the gathering and dispersed the crowds with much haste. Proper warning and ample time to disperse were not given by the authorities, thus resulting in a commotion where 22 men and 8 women were arrested because they were suspected as participants of the vigil.

SUHAKAM has consistently urged the Government to consider and take into account the recommendations made by the Commission on freedom of assembly as expressed in the reports relating to the Kesas Highway and KLCC “Bloody Sunday” Inquiries. SUHAKAM would therefore recommend that in the event where the police finds it necessary to control or disperse a crowd, proportionate and nonviolent methods should be employed.

SUHAKAM strongly reiterates its stand that the people have the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, as all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms as guaranteed by Article 10 (1) (b) of the Federal Constitution. The right to freedom of assembly is also guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 20 (1).

SUHAKAM also wishes to address the ordeal of the detainees of the vigil at the Petaling Jaya police station where the authorities requested the lawyers to provide separate witness statements. This unusual practice forced the lawyers to pull out from giving legal counsel to the detainees. Apart from that, SUHAKAM feels that the authorities could have expedited the process of bail at the police station as the detainees had to endure long hours before they could be released.

However, SUHAKAM wishes to record that full cooperation was extended by the Police to the Commission which enabled  SUHAKAM to observe and monitor the 50 years of ISA vigil and the recording of statements at the Petaling Jaya police station.

TAN SRI HASMY AGAM,
Chairman
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

News source: http://mmail.com.my/content/45087-suhakam-regrets-police-arrests-30-gmi-activists-released

Anti-ISA protesters arrested

News source: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/fmt-english/news/general/8648-anti-isa-protesters-arrestedBy Patrick Lee

UPDATED PETALING JAYA: The police have arrested 25 people after cracking down on a candlelight vigil held here in protest of the security law.
Among those arrested were Anti-ISA movement president Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Saharin and Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

Four more activists were arrested in Penang.

The protest, which took place at several locations nationwide, was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the law, which allows detention without trial.

In Petaling Jaya, anti-riot personnel moved in on some 300 protesters when they started singing the national anthem at 8pm.

The protesters were stopped from making their way to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) field, as the police declared the gathering an illegal assembly.

When chased, the protesters fled into the nearby Amcorp Mall amid chants of “Hidup Rakyat” with the police in pursuit.

Following this, the protesters attempted to march to the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre but this was thwarted by the police, and the crowd retreated back into the mall.

Later, the crowd gathered outside the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters, where those arrested were taken, and sang the Negaraku and lit candles.

Once again the police moved in to disperse the protesters, who then sought refuge in nearby mamak stalls.

‘Violent and unacceptable’
The police’s action was condemned by several quarters, with a Bar Council’s Siti Kassim calling it “violent and unacceptable”.

Rights group Suaram director Kua Kia Soong was “disgusted”.

“This could have been a peaceful protest… it’s going to make Malaysia more of a police state,” he said, adding that it was the first time he had seen policemen storming a mall.

Kua said it was “shameful” that Malaysia still had laws like the ISA, but the police’s behaviour was even more embarrassing.
Human rights lawyer N Surendran told reporters that the “true face” of Malaysia was revealed tonight.
“Some of the lawyers have been denied entry (into the police headquarters), the police are being very difficult,” he added.
Wan Intan, who operates a stall in Amcorp Mall, also expressed disappointment with the police.
“The police should be taking care of the situation… it was dangerous for them to rush into the mall like that. We didn’t know that there was going to be a protest, the police should have informed us,” she said.

Police chief: We had no choice
Speaking to reporters later, Petaling Jaya police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed said his men were forced to act against the protesters.

“We had no choice. They defied our orders (to disperse) and were advancing towards us,” he said, adding that six women were among those detained.

“We told them to disperse, but they refused and went into Amcorp Mall. When they came out, they scolded the police and challenged us, so we arrested them,” he said.
Arjunaidi said the organiser did not obtain a police permit.

As for the organiser’s claim that MBPJ had issued them a permit, he said: “The council is not the authority to issue such permits and the organiser, with their legal knowledge, should have known this.”
He also chided the protesters for bringing their children along.

In Ipoh, scores of policemen stood guard at the Dataran Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh and the area had been cordoned off whereas in Penang, the police had posted notices warning the public not to participate in the illegal assembly.

Suaram: Heightened intolerance towards dissent (The SUN- 21 july 2010)

Suaram: Heightened intolerance towards dissent
By Karen Arukesamy

KUALA LUMPUR (July 21, 2010):Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) lamented that the government has “yet to respond” pro-actively despite numerous recommendations made by human rights NGOs. Its 2009 Human Rights Report launched today, highlighted several key trends in declining human rights last year.

It cited perceived abuses of power by law enforcement agencies, heightened intolerance towards dissent and resistance to reform, and greater respect for human rights.

“With the massive arrests by the police over peaceful protests and street demonstrations, the freedom of speech, expression and assembly have been seriously undermined in the country,” said Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong.

Kua said while the government had agreed to review the Internal Security Act (ISA), it has ignored two other detention-without-trial laws – the Emergency Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Act – despite their similarities with the ISA.

Other laws like the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, and Section 27 of the Police Act also remain firmly in place, undermining the civil liberties, the report said.

Among others, the report noted that there were eight deaths in custody – seven in police custody and political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death while in the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Besides that, 88 people were shot dead by police in 2009 with not a single police officer known to be held accountable for any of those deaths.

Suaram documentation and monitoring coordinator John Liu, who presented the report, said this was a high number considering there were only 13 such cases in 2007, according to official sources.

“These cases continue to occur at an alarming rate in 2010, including the case of 15-year-old Aminulrashyid Hamzah, who was shot dead by police on April 26 in Shah Alam, and on July 5, four robbers were shot dead by police in Pahang,” he said.

“ Malaysia’s refusal  to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture despite being repeatedly urged to do so shows the government accepts torture as a form of punishment,” Liu said. — theSun

 

Suaram: Heightened intolerance towards dissent (The SUN- 21 july 2010)

Suaram: Heightened intolerance towards dissent
By Karen Arukesamy

KUALA LUMPUR (July 21, 2010): Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) lamented that the government has “yet to respond” pro-actively despite numerous recommendations made by human rights NGOs. Its 2009 Human Rights Report launched today, highlighted several key trends in declining human rights last year.

It cited perceived abuses of power by law enforcement agencies, heightened intolerance towards dissent and resistance to reform, and greater respect for human rights.

“With the massive arrests by the police over peaceful protests and street demonstrations, the freedom of speech, expression and assembly have been seriously undermined in the country,” said Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong.

Kua said while the government had agreed to review the Internal Security Act (ISA), it has ignored two other detention-without-trial laws – the Emergency Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Act – despite their similarities with the ISA.

Other laws like the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, and Section 27 of the Police Act also remain firmly in place, undermining the civil liberties, the report said.

Among others, the report noted that there were eight deaths in custody – seven in police custody and political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death while in the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Besides that, 88 people were shot dead by police in 2009 with not a single police officer known to be held accountable for any of those deaths.

Suaram documentation and monitoring coordinator John Liu, who presented the report, said this was a high number considering there were only 13 such cases in 2007, according to official sources.

“These cases continue to occur at an alarming rate in 2010, including the case of 15-year-old Aminulrashyid Hamzah, who was shot dead by police on April 26 in Shah Alam, and on July 5, four robbers were shot dead by police in Pahang,” he said.

“ Malaysia’s refusal to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture despite being repeatedly urged to do so shows the government accepts torture as a form of punishment,” Liu said. — theSun

Rights group slams KL for ‘more rhetoric than reality’

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Malaysia has failed to undertake systematic reforms to fulfil Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s oath of office in April 2009 promising to respect “the fundamental rights of the people,” Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2010.

The 612-page report, the New York-based organisation’s 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarises major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Malaysia has failed to undertake systematic reforms to fulfil Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s oath of office in April 2009 promising to respect “the fundamental rights of the people,” Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2010.

The 612-page report, the New York-based organisation’s 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarises major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide.

In Malaysia, the report said, instead of addressing persistent human rights problems, the government harasses the political opposition; improperly restricts the rights to peaceful expression, association, and assembly; and mistreats migrants.

“The Malaysian government appears to be more interested in pursuing short-term political advantage than safeguarding rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“In the hopes of maintaining control and power, the government has turned its back on its promises to protect people’s rights.”

The release of a number of detainees held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) early in Najib’s term was a positive development, Human Rights Watch said. But Parliament should repeal that and other repressive laws, including the Police Act 1967, which was most recently used to justify a violent crackdown on a citizens’ march against the ISA on Aug 1 last year.

It reported that security forces attacked the gathering with tear gas and water laced with chemicals fired from water cannon trucks, and arrested almost 600 people, including 44 children.

Human Rights Watch also criticised the government’s continuing heavy restrictions on freedom of expression, saying “The Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 enables government officials to compel censorship of publications through control of printing and distribution licenses.

“More recently, Internet media and bloggers are coming under closer scrutiny as the government, cognisant of the Internet’s impact in the last general election, tries to rein in non-traditional media,” it added.

It also said Malaysian legislation failed to distinguish refugees and asylum seekers from other undocumented migrants and authorised Ikatan Relawan Rakyat (Rela), which it called “an ill-trained, abusive civilian force, to use its authority to enter living quarters and make arrests without search or arrest warrants”.

The HRW report said apprehended undocumented migrants are detained under inhumane conditions in immigration detention centres, where several migrants died during 2009 and dozens were sickened by leptospirosis, a disease spread by animal faeces in unclean water.

It also noted that the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee produced a report alleging ties between Malaysian deportations and human trafficking gangs at the Malaysian-Thai border, where the lives of deportees were at risk if they could not pay ransoms.

“It is beyond understanding why the Malaysian government delays access to basic medical services for the thousands of migrants locked in cramped, dirty, and disease-ridden conditions,” Robertson said.

“How many more migrants have to die in detention before Malaysian policymakers wake up?”

The report also lamented that human rights defenders — such as lawyers, journalists, and members of non-governmental organisations — faced continued harassment and the possibility of arrest, especially if the government considered their work to be connected to opposition political parties.

It alleged that Malaysia also continued to violate human rights norms by criminalising adult consensual sexual behaviour, “as evidenced by the ongoing efforts to bring the parliamentary opposition leader, (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim, to trial for alleged consensual sodomy in a case that many observers believe is politically motivated”.

“For a country that is so proud of its post-colonial political development, it is truly bizarre that the government continues to enforce an antiquated British colonial law against ‘sodomy’ by consenting adults,” said Robertson.

“It’s about time the government brought its criminal code into the 21st century.”

The report said that under pressure from the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC), the government made slight modifications to the law that established Suhakam, Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission.

“However, Suhakam remained hampered by its status as an advisory committee, without adequate independence for its commissioners or power to compel enforcement of its decisions,” the report said.

The major recommendations to Malaysia’s government in the Human Rights Watch report are:

  • Revoke the Internal Security Act and other arbitrary and preventive detention measures;
  • Rescind the Printing Presses and Publications Act, narrowing the definition of sedition and seditious tendency;
  • Amend the Police Act to provide for reasonable and negotiated conditions for assembly;
  • Abolish Rela and uphold the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

In addition, Human Rights Watch urged ratification of key international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“During the early days of his government, Prime Minister Najib talked big on protecting human rights — but talk is cheap,” Robertson said. “If the government really believes in its 1 Malaysia campaign, then it should demonstrate real commitment to improving respect for the human rights of all Malaysians.”

Click here to read Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2010 chapter on Malaysia.