Report 2013: Malaysia
International - May 23, 2013
of state: King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah
laws which had allowed for arbitrary detention and restricted freedom of
expression were replaced with new legislation which nonetheless failed
to meet international human rights standards. Peaceful protesters calling
for electoral reform encountered police abuses and mass arrests. At least
14 people continued to be detained without trial under the Internal Security
of government: Najib Tun Razak
Minister Najib Tun Razak’s coalition and the parliamentary opposition prepared
for elections, which the Prime Minister was required to call by March 2013.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who faced imprisonment and a five-year
ban from office on politically motivated charges of sodomy, was acquitted
in January 2012.
government announced in July that it would repeal the 1948 Sedition Act,
which had been used to quash dissent, but the proposed National Harmony
Act contained new restrictions on freedom of expression. Under Section
114A of the Evidence Act, an amendment which came into force in July, people
who operated internet hosting services or websites open to public contributors
(such as online forums) became liable for any offending content published
through these services.
the authorities banned Canadian author Irshad Manji’s book Allah, Liberty
and Love as “prejudicial to morality and public order”. Nik Raina Nik Abdul
Aziz, the manager of a Borders shop stocking the book, faced two years
in prison after being charged under Shari’a law with distributing a book
offensive to Islam.
state harassed civil society organizations critical of the authorities.
Although the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 removed requirements for police
permits for public assemblies, it allowed for them to be banned as “street
use of force
three opposition leaders, including Anwar Ibrahim, were charged with breaching
the Peaceful Assembly Act for their involvement in the Bersih rally on
the grounds that it was an alleged “street protest”.
agencies pursued a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Suara
Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), a human rights group which had successfully petitioned
for a French judicial review. The group had alleged that the French naval
defence company DCNS had paid bribes to Malaysian officials to obtain a
contract for two submarines.
the High Court dismissed the appeal of the rights coalition Seksualiti
Merdeka. The group had called for a judicial review of a 2012 police ban
on their annual sexuality rights festival, which had taken place without
interference since 2008.
used excessive force against peaceful protesters. The authorities rejected
renewed calls to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct
Commission (IPCMC), as recommended by the 2005 Royal Commission on Policing.
arrests and detentions
Bersih 3.0 march on 28 April, police in Kuala Lumpur fired tear gas and
water cannon at tens of thousands of peaceful protesters calling for electoral
reforms. Police beat peaceful protesters and arrested at least 471 participants.
Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told Parliament that police
had shot dead 298 suspected criminals between 2007 and August 2012, including
151 Indonesian nationals.
government repealed the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allowed for
indefinite detention without charge or trial, and replaced it with the
new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act in July. Under it, the police
were allowed to detain suspects incommunicado for 48 hours, and for up
to 28 days without charge or judicial review.
November, at least 14 detainees, all foreign nationals, were held under
the ISA until their detention orders expired, despite repeal of this law.
were subjected to systematic detention, and migrant workers faced labour
abuses. In June, Indonesia ended a two-year ban on sending migrant domestic
workers to Malaysia, following abuses against domestic workers there.
February, Malaysia violated the international prohibition against refoulement
by forcibly returning blogger Hamza Kashgari to Saudi Arabia, where he
faced the possibility of a death sentence on criminal charges of apostasy
for his tweets about the Prophet Mohamed.
student Onochie Martins Nwankwo was beaten to death on 30 March by members
of Ikatan Relawan Rakyat (RELA), a civilian para-police force mandated
to enforce immigration controls. On 20 April, Parliament passed the Malaysia
Volunteers Corps Bill 2012, which stripped RELA members of the power to
make arrests and carry firearms.
least 860 prisoners were on death row at the end of February, according
to the Prisons Department. The authorities did not disclose the number
of executions carried out in 2012.
Law Minister Nazri Aziz announced that the government would consider replacing
the mandatory death penalty with prison sentences, but only for drug offences
and under certain circumstances.
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