rights in Malaysia
International Report - May 2011
arrests and detentions
and other ill-treatment
state: King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin
of government: Najib Tun Razak
expectancy: 74.7 years
mortality (m/f): 12/10 per 1,000
literacy: 92.1 per cent
government restricted freedom of expression in electronic and print media.
Detention without charge or trial continued as the Internal Security Act
(ISA) entered its 50th year. Refugees, migrants and Malaysian nationals
were subjected to judicial caning for criminal offences, including immigration
violations. Under Shari'a law, three women were caned for the first time.
Malaysia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in May.
Tun Razak served his second year as Prime Minister after ousting Abdullah
Badawi. He had until March 2013 to call parliamentary elections. The trial
of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on politically motivated criminal charges
of sodomy for the second time in 12 years continued. If convicted, Anwar
Ibrahim faced imprisonment and a ban from political office for five years.
In announcing a new multi-year economic policy in March, Najib Tun Razak
called for the reform of Malaysia's positive discrimination policy which
favours Bumiputeras (a legal status which comprises ethnic Malays and Indigenous
people in eastern Malaysia).
authorities restricted freedom of expression by requiring government licences
for publications and imposing criminal penalties under the Sedition Act
on those speaking out against the government.
arrests and detentions
the Home Affairs Ministry suspended distribution of Suara Keadilan, the
newspaper of the main opposition party, the People's Justice Party (PKR),
by refusing to renew the required licence for its publication. In July,
the government restricted distribution of another opposition paper, Harakah,
run by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
Irwan Abdul Rahman, also known as Hassan Skodeng, was arrested in August
after he posted a satire of the chairman of Malaysia's largest utility
company challenging an energy-conservation campaign. Irwan Abdul Rahman
was released on bail and charged under the Communications and Multimedia
Act 1998 with improper use of the internet by posting false or offensive
content with malicious intent. If convicted, he faced up to one year in
prison and a fine of 50,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$15,500).
pressured a Chinese-language radio station to sack host Jamaluddin Ibrahim
after his programme criticized the government's positive discrimination
policy. In August, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission
sent a letter to the station, reportedly alleging that the programme threatened
national security and compromised race relations.
arrested political cartoonist Zunar in September before the launch of his
book Cartoon-o-phobia and confiscated copies. He was charged under the
Sedition Act and faced up to three years in prison. In June, the Home Affairs
Ministry banned three of the cartoonist's earlier books and magazines as
being "detrimental to public order" under the Printing Press and Publications
Act 1984. Under this law, printing and distributing these cartoons were
punishable by up to three years' imprisonment or fines of up to 20,000
Malaysian ringgit (US$6,200). Zunar was released on bail.
police raided a private Islamic religious class near Kuala Lumpur, and
detained 50 people under the ISA. Most of the detainees were soon released,
but the government summarily deported several of the foreign detainees
to countries, including Syria, where they faced risk of torture for suspected
involvement in political Islamic groups.
At a peaceful
protest in August marking the ISA's 50th anniversary, police arrested 30
out of an estimated 300 demonstrators in Petaling Jaya town. All those
detained were subsequently released. Malaysian law severely restricts public
protest and freedom of assembly by banning public gatherings of more than
five people without a permit.
Mohamad Fadzullah Bin Abdul Razak, a Malaysian national aged 28, was arrested
under the ISA upon his return from Thailand. The government alleged that
he was involved in an international terrorist network. The authorities
gave him a two-year detention order under the ISA, which provides for indefinite
detention without charge or trial.
detention of refugees in Malaysia was "systematic", according to the UN
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which visited in June. In addition
to detention for immigration offences, migrant workers commonly faced abusive
and other ill-treatment
the government announced that it would nearly double the size of RELA (Ikatan
Relawan Rakyat), a civilian-volunteer force which used its policing power
to arrest migrants and refugees for immigration offences. RELA officers
often extorted money from migrants and refugees, and sometimes beat them.
The government also reinstated RELA officers in immigration detention facilities,
after withdrawing them in 2009.
in immigration detention centres remained poor. In response to a recurrent
lack of water at the Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre, an estimated
500 Burmese asylum-seekers protested in June by going on hunger strike.
seven immigration officers and two foreign nationals were reportedly arrested
for alleged involvement in human trafficking. However, no criminal procedures
were initiated; instead they were detained without trial under the ISA.
regularly caned people for a host of offences, including immigration violations.
Caning was provided for more than 60 criminal offences. In one week alone,
scores of migrant workers were deported to Indonesia after being caned
for immigration offences.
three women were caned, for the first time in Malaysia's history. The women,
all Muslims, were convicted of extramarital sex and caned under Shari'a
provisions, near Kuala Lumpur. In April, the first woman sentenced to caning,
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, had her 2009 sentence of six strokes commuted
to community service.
sentenced at least 114 people to "hang by the neck until dead", according
to reports in the state-owned news agency Bernama and other Malaysian media.
The authorities did not disclose the number of executions carried out.
than half of known death sentences were for possession of illegal drugs
above certain specified quantities, an offence which carried the mandatory
death penalty. Defendants in such cases faced charges of drug trafficking.
Under the drug laws, they were presumed guilty unless they could prove
their innocence, which contravened international fair trial standards.
of other ASEAN nations accounted for one in six known death sentences.
This included seven from Indonesia, three each from Myanmar, Singapore
and Thailand, and two from the Philippines.
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