The persistent crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, and the lack of police accountability in Malaysia are among the major concerns raised in the Amnesty International Report 2016/ 17 released today.
The 408-page report recorded six areas of concern in Malaysia: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions, police and security forces, refugees and asylum seekers, and death penalty.
“In 2016, repressive acts such as the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 were repeatedly used to silence government critics who were harassed, intimidated and often detained, consistent with the trend we see within Southeast Asia on threats towards the region’s Human Rights Defenders,” said Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.
The report also highlighted the blocking and subsequent shutdown of independent news portal The Malaysian Insider, attacks against activists Fahmi Reza and Haris Ibrahim, as well as the travel ban on political cartoonist Zunar.
The AIR 2016/ 17 also noted the attack on the freedom of association in October when a peaceful convoy advocating for electoral reform and raising awareness of the Bersih 5 demonstrations was subjected to physical attacks and intimidation, while its leaders received death threats.
On arbitrary arrests and detention in Malaysia, attention was drawn towards the abuse of preventive detention laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA).
The report spotlighted the arrest and 11-day solitary confinement of Maria Chin Abdullah, head of Bersih 2.0 a day before the Bersih 5 rally for “attempts to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” and cases of 13 SOSMA detainees who were tortured in police detention as reported by the human rights NGO Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).
“Decades have passed since the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) was entered into force, yet torture continues across the world, including in Malaysia, one of the few countries left which has yet to accede to the convention. However, by joining the other 161 United Nations member states who are party to the UNCAT, Malaysia would be making a firm commitment towards eliminating torture,” Shamini said.
Malaysia is one of 32 UN member states left to ratify the UNCAT.
“Meanwhile, the National Security Council Act, which came into force in August, provides the executive with extensive powers including the right to arrest, search and seize without warrant, to impose arbitrary curfews, and to have the authority to circumvent major accountability measures. This Act is another example of a highly suppressive law which infringes upon basic human rights,” Shamini said.
The AIR 2016/ 17 noted that impunity for deaths in police custody and excessive use of force continued last year, most notably in the case of N Dharmendran who died in police custody in 2013.
In the report, Amnesty International noted the over 400 Rohingyas who were detained in the Belantik depot in Kedah for over a year and that most have been released.
“There has been some interesting movement where the Rohingyas are concerned with the prime minister having recently expressed support for a community that has lived in Malaysia for a couple of generations. Malaysia must go a step further and firstly recognise the word ‘refugee’ in law and allow for them to be accorded basic human rights,” Shamini said.
On the death penalty, the report noted that the announcement by the government in 2015 has yet to materialise while new death sentences and executions continue to take place.
“The government must show its commitment towards total abolition of the death penalty by putting in place at the soonest possible a moratorium on all executions.”
Download the AIR 2016/ 17 at http://amnesty.my/content/amnesty-international-report-201617