Open Letter to SUHAKAM on the intimidation against the 9 July electoral reform rally in Malaysia
1 July 2011 4:38 am
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a membership-based regional human rights organization, writes to you regarding the on-going threats and intimidation by the Malaysian government against the electoral reform campaigners and supporters. On 28 June, the National Human rights commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) called “on the authorities to allow the planned peaceful assemblies to be held and on the parties intending to hold these assemblies to exercise their rights in a peaceful and responsible manner”. However, the government of Malaysia has yet to properly respond to the recommendations by SUHAKAM.
Open Letter to SUHAKAM regarding the Threats and Intimidation by the Malaysian Government against the Electoral Reform Mass Rally Supporters
30 June 2011
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a membership-based regional human rights organization, writes to you regarding the on-going threats and intimidation by the Malaysian government against the electoral reform campaigners and supporters.
We sincerely welcome the SUHAKAM’s 28 June pronouncement that called “on the authorities to allow the planned peaceful assemblies to be held and on the parties intending to hold these assemblies to exercise their rights in a peaceful and responsible manner”. However, we deeply regret that the government of Malaysia has yet to properly respond to the recommendations by SUHAKAM. Rather, the government has intensified its crackdown by continuing to arrest and intimidate supporters of the planned Bersih 2.0 mass rally to be held on 9 July 2011.
Of particular concern is yesterday’s police raid of the Bersih 2.0 office in Selangor, which was conducted without a warrant. Police confiscated election reform campaign materials, including t-shirts, leaflets, laptops and banners, while arresting six staff members and one volunteer in the office. As of today, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), FORUM-ASIA’s member organization in Malaysia, has recorded at least 16 incidents of police arrests and summons to 108 persons for distributing election campaign pamphlets or wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts. Although some of those arrested were later released on bail, we are concerned that there are still many individuals who remain in detention.
Furthermore, we are appalled to hear that the Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Hishammuddin Hussein, has repeatedly indicated that the authorities may invoke the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) to prosecute the organizers of the Bersih 2.0 mass rally as well as any other gathering on 9 July. In addition, Mr. Hussein was reported yesterday to have declared that t-shirts with messages in support of Bersih 2.0 have been outlawed because they were related to an illegal assembly, though he failed to mention which law made the t-shirts “illegal”.
FORUM-ASIA recalls that in accordance with the Paris Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions, SUHAKAM has a responsibility “to draw the attention of the Government to situations in any part of the country where human rights are violated and make proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations, where necessary, expressing an opinion on the positions and reactions of the Government”. We expect that SUHAKAM, which holds an A-status accreditation with the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC-NHRIs), will strive to exert its full capacity and mandates with a view to fully complying with the aforementioned Paris Principles.
In this respect, FORUM-ASIA strongly urges SUHAKAM to:
- Call on the government of Malaysia to guarantee that no further arrests will occur and to release those remaining in detention in the context of the current crackdown;
- Use its power to visit places of detention and ensure that the rights of the detainees are fully upheld;
- Continue to demand the government to allow the 9 July assemblies to take place and fully realise the right of Malaysian citizens to freedom of peaceful assembly without any obstacles in line with Malaysia’s obligations under its Federal Constitution as well as international human rights law; and
- Send visible monitors to the 9 July assemblies in efforts to prevent confrontations and violence.
As highlighted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay during the 24th annual meeting of the ICC-NHRIs (Geneva, 17-19 May 2011) which SUHAKAM also attended, national human rights institutions play a crucial role in ensuring the rule of law, preventing the violations and providing assistance to victims of human rights breaches. We look forward to your positive response on this matter.
Yap Swee Seng