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Monday, 27 October 2014

SUHAKAM CALLS FOR PRISON REFORMS IN MALAYSIA

TAN SRI HASMY AGAM
Chairman, The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) wishes to refer to Mr P. Uthayakumar’s revelations of his imprisonment in Kajang Prison, and to state that, following a memorandum received from Persatuan Penasihat Pengguna-Pengguna Malaysia on 5 August 2013, concerning the alleged mistreatment of Mr. P. Uthayakumar in theKajang Prison, SUHAKAM investigated into the allegations and undertook several follow-up actions.

These included a visit to Kajang Prison on 13 August 2013 to verify the complaints with relevant parties, an official letter to the Prison Department on 21 August 2013 concerning the issues highlighted in the memorandum, followed by a meeting with the Prison Department on 4 September 2013 to discuss among others, procedural issue related to written complaints received from inmates during SUHAKAM’s visits to prisons.
SUHAKAM has also taken a step further by undertaking a thematic study into the issue on the
right to health in prison. The main objective of this study is to ensure that the conditions of
prisons in the country are consistent with acceptable health and safety standards, and human
dignity in order to achieve a criminal justice system that respects individual rights.

In undertaking this study, SUHAKAM has conducted special visits to prisons across the country
to compile first hand data and information with regard to the issues faced by both inmates and
prison staff. The methodology used in this study involved surveys through questionnaires and
interviews with relevant respondents regarding access to medical care in prisons. SUHAKAM
has visited thirteen (13) prisons - Kajang and Kajang Prison for Women, Sungai Buloh (Selangor),
Taiping (Perak), Pengkalan Chepa (Kelantan), Tapah and Bentong (Pahang), Seremban (Negeri
Sembilan), Kuching, Miri, Sibu and Limbang (Sarawak), as well as Kota Kinabalu (Sabah). To
date, 4086 inmates, 646 staff and 37 medical assistants have been involved in the survey. The
outcome report which contains findings and recommendations of this study will be submitted
to the relevant authorities and the Government in accordance with SUHAKAM’s objective in
this project, namely, to advocate for the improvement of the health standards in prisons across
Malaysia.

Based on the periodic visits it has conducted in the past,

SUHAKAM sees the need for further systematic and cohesive reforms to be instituted in our prisons in order to address various fundamental issues concerning medical care, including mental health care, for both staff and inmates, prison conditions, as well as working conditions of prison staff.

SUHAKAM is also pursuing with the Government further amendments to its founding legislation
which, inter-alia, will empower it to conduct unscheduled visits to prisons and places of
detention in Malaysia.

“HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL”
27 October 2014

Friday, 24 October 2014

DOUBTS IN ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

By Dato K.C. VOHRAH

THE recent episode in Parliament when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri gave a written reply to a parliamentary question in relation to the Malay Bible burning threat by Datuk Ibrahim Ali raises a number of concerns.

The minister in a written reply stated, inter alia, that Ibrahim was not charged under the Sedition Act because the police concluded that he was merely defending the sanctity of Islam and had not intended to create chaos with this statement.

The written statement was from the Attorney-General’s Chambers where the Attorney-General (A-G) is the adviser to the Government on legal matters under Article 145(2) of the Constitution.

The first concern is the reliance by the A-G Chambers on the finding that Ibrahim was not intending to create chaos, to exculpate him from a charge under the Sedition Act.

However, section 3(3) of the Act clearly states that “(for) the purpose of proving the commission of any offence under this Act the intention of the person charged... shall be deemed irrelevant if in fact the words... had a seditious tendency”.

Again in relation to Ibrahim’s statement in the context of the words used, is there not a “seditious tendency” under the section 3 (1)(d) where “seditious tendency is defined as being a tendency” to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia...”, an offence under section 4 of the Act?

The second concern is that it would appear that the police had concluded that there was no intention to create chaos. How the police came to that conclusion shows that the provisions of the Sedition Act had not been understood or studied by the officers who compiled the investigation papers (collectively called the IP) before they concluded that no action should be taken against the man.

The third concern is that under Article 145(2) it is the duty of the A-G to advise, among others, any minister on legal matters. The A-G is the ultimate legal adviser to the Government and he cannot afford to be wrong.

The A-G Chambers will answer a parlia­mentary question in the form of an opinion. An opinion will comprise a statement of facts and the application of the law on the facts.

In our context the A-G Chambers relied on the police for the facts of the case. On the issue of law and its interpretation the A-G Chambers appeared to rely on the opinion of the police in the IP, as well, that no offence had been made out under the Sedition Act. That clearly is wrong.

I had been with the A-G Chambers for 16 years in the 70s and early 80s and the protocol for dealing with parliamentary questions was strict. An answer had to go through many layers of scrutiny and approval before being sanctioned by the A-G for release. What has happened to the strict procedure in the A-G Chambers?

Admittedly the A-G Chambers in my days was, and more so now is, never idle as the volume of problems that come to the chambers for legal opinion is enormous.

But in matters relating to parliamentary questions, truthful and accurate statements of law are expected in the august body of Parliament as the A-G is the ultimate adviser of the government in legal matters.

There needs to be a re-think probably of the protocol relating to answers to parliamentary questions especially in criminal law matters, and the decision on the law should be for the A-G Chambers and nobody else, except for the courts.

There are other concerns but perhaps I should deal with the biggest concern. It is with regard to the perception of the role of the A-G (as Public Prosecutor) in the legal administration of the country.
The A-G under Article 145(2) has the power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.

The power is an awesome power which has to be exercised bona fide and with great professionalism and care. And any perception that the A-G when exercising such powers, is biased, selective or acts under ministerial pressure or pressure from any group will bring disrepute to the office of the A-G and cause grave misgivings as to the fair administration of the legal system. And when mistrust arises in regard to the exercise of such powers it would be to the discredit of the Government.

Clearly, the A-G Chambers has to be circumspect in regard to police IPs when dealing with the issues of fact and, especially when dealing particularly with parliamentary questions.

The A-G Chambers must also be solely responsible for the interpretation of the law in accordance with the tenor of the legislation and the relevant court-decided cases on that law; and the A-G cannot abdicate that duty to any other body, though the courts will have the last say on it.

With these concerns in mind, in relation to the Sedition Act, the A-G should review the cases where persons have already been charged in court bearing in mind that:

(1) The Sedition Act is an oppressive law and that many jurists and scholars consider sedition (based on common law seditious libel) as obsolete. Seditious libel came during a period when the divine right of rulers was not only accepted but believed to be necessary; rulers who dispensed laws were above questions and criticism of rulers was considered sinful as well as unlawful.

Lord Denning in Landmarks in the Law (1984) stated at p 295:

The offence of seditious libel is now obsolescent. It used to be defined as words intended to stir up violence, that is, disorder, by promoting feelings, of ill-will or hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects.

But this definition was found to be too wide. It would restrict too much the full free discussion of public affairs... So it has fallen into disuse for nearly 150 years. The only case in this century was R. v. Caunt... when a local paper published an article stirring up hatred against Jews. The jury found the editor Not Guilty.

In the Canadian Supreme Court decision of Boucher v The King [1951] SCR 265 at 285-286, Mr Justice Rand held:

Up to the end of the 18th century it (crime of seditious libel) was, in essence, a contempt in words of political authority or the actions of authority.

If we conceive of the governors of society as superior beings, exercising a divine mandate, by whom laws, institutions and administrations are given to men to be obeyed, who are, in short, beyond criticism, reflection or censure upon them or what they do implies either an equality with them or an accountability by them, both equally offensive.

(2) That once a person is charged for an offence under the Act, looking at the state of case law in Malaysia, there is no defence that can normally be taken for offences, say, under the Penal Code or other acts creating offences. 

So it appears there can be no defence even of truth, lack of intention, presence of an innocent or honourable intention, absence of consequent harm, or even a lack of possibility or potential for consequent harm. Prove the utterance of words as “seditious” (defined circularly and widely) and there is no defence to the utterance. Very oppressive in the 21st century. And to think this is the law in Malaysia, a democratic country.

(3) That the A-G before exercising his discretion whether to charge a person for sedition must ignore pressure from any quarter, political or otherwise, the noisy and the cantankerous, and the well-meaning and well-intentioned groups (who have not seen the oppressive implications of the law), and focus on whether it is reasonable to charge such a person in the context of all relevant circumstances in an age of “disagreement in ideas and belief on every conceivable subject” which are the essence of our life in modern Malaysia pushing on for developed status in 2020.

Let us hope that the A-G, who had indicated he would review the cases of those charged for sedition, will do so with a group of officers who have researched the history of sedition law, its very rare use in other common law countries including Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States and the reasons why that is so.

Using such reasons and in the context of reasonableness it is hoped the charges against a slew of persons including academics will be withdrawn. It boggles the mind that even intellectual discourse can be considered seditious.


Source: http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Letters/2014/10/23/Doubts-in-administration-of-justice/

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Proham calls for a public review on treatment of prisoners & conditions in Malaysian prisons

Proham calls on the Minister of Home Affairs and the Director General of Prisons to engage with Suhakam for a review of current SOP on treatment of prisoners and conditions in Malaysian prisons in the light of the revelations made by Mr Uthayakumar who was in Kajang Prisons for 24 months as published in the Malaysiakini.
Proham recognises that the Suhakam Act empowers the Human Rights Commission not only to visit detention centres but also under take public inquiries. We therefore urge Suhakam to undertake a comprehensive review so as to ensure the treatment of prisoners and prison conditions are in accordance to UN basic standards. 

It is of utmost importance that Malaysia who is now a member of the UN Security Council adheres to the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners as adopted by he General Assembly.
 
Issued on behalf of Proham by
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Proham Chairman
Oct 24, 2014
 
----------------------------------------
Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners 
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 45/111 
 of 14 December 1990 

1. All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. 

2. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. 

3. It is, however, desirable to respect the religious beliefs and cultural precepts of the group to which prisoners belong, whenever local conditions so require. 

4. The responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State's other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society. 

5. Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, where the State concerned is a party, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol thereto, as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants. 

6. All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality. 

7. Efforts addressed to the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken and encouraged. 

8. Conditions shall be created enabling prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment which will facilitate their reintegration into the country's labour market and permit them to contribute to their own financial support and to that of their families. 

9. Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation. 

10. With the participation and help of the community and social institutions, and with due regard to the interests of victims, favourable conditions shall be created for the reintegration of the ex-prisoner into society under the best possible conditions. 

11. The above Principles shall be applied impartially. 

Civil Society’s Recommendations to ASEAN

HE Min Lwin of Myanmar Moderated the Lunch Discussion. Far left - Dato Hasnudin Hamzah
(Malaysia's Permanent Representative to ASEAN)
 
To the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), the ASEAN High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat and Reviewing the ASEAN Organs, the ASEAN Secretary-General (ASG), and the ASEAN Secretariat

Jakarta, Indonesia, 22-24 October 2014

1.      We, members of civil society organizations, think tanks and youth groups from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 22nd-24 October 2014 for the 5th ASEAN Human Rights Forum: Dialogues between Civil Society Representatives and the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), the High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat and Reviewing the ASEAN Organs, the ASEAN Secretary-General (ASG), and the ASEAN Secretariat. The main objectives of the series of forums are to provide a venue for civil society to have a regular dialogue with ASEAN officials on important issues and provide human rights-oriented inputs for the Post-2015 ASEAN Community Blueprints, especially on effective and meaningful ways of engagement with civil society.

2.      We take note that the ASEAN Charter and the Post-2015 ASEAN Community Blueprints are the reflection of ASEAN’s commitment for the protection and promotion of human rights in the region. However, not all actions in these Blueprints are consistent with the principles of human rights. Human rights are virtually ignored on provisions related to free trade, labour mobility, traditional security, trafficking in persons, and identity. All human rights are cross-cutting, inherent, interrelated, indivisible, and should concern everyone.

 3.      It is very important that the Post-2015 ASEAN Community Blueprints not only focus on building an integrated society, but also develop a roadmap toward a human rights and equality agenda in the region. A roadmap where people are treated as the rights holders and key actors in the decisions that affect them. Furthermore, communication and consultation must be established without delay.
Ms Yuyun Wahyuningrum of Human Rights Working Group who
together with CSIS were the main organisers.

 
Human Rights Roadmap for ASEAN Community Post-2015

 4.      ASEAN must seriously tackle the pressing human rights issues of the peoples of Southeast Asia. It must also transform the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to an independent human rights body by creating mechanisms that take into account the concerns of its people and guarantees their fundamental rights and freedoms. We are of the view that AICHR must ensure that the implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) is, at all times, in accordance with universally accepted human rights standards.  

5.      We call on ASEAN Member States to promote human rights cooperation among ASEAN’s sectoral bodies in partnership with stakeholders including civil society organisations.

6.      We call on ASEAN Member States to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) based on the Paris Principles in countries where such institutions do not yet exist.

 7.      We demand that ASEAN institutionalize mechanisms of regular reporting and feedback on human rights to ensure accountability of ASEAN to its peoples. ASEAN should set targets for the monitoring of human rights through a scorecard with appropriate metrics. ASEAN also must make these assessments publicly available.

8.      We call on ASEAN to adopt a human rights approach in all of its community building pillars with corresponding implementation mechanisms in coordination with AICHR and the ASEAN Community Councils.

 Human Rights Based Approach to ASEAN Community Post-2015

9.      We demand that the Post-2015 ASEAN Community Blueprints adopt principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, fairness, and transparency in their community actions plans. The Blueprints must be all-encompassing of groups that have been marginalized in the previous ones, such as but not limited to: people with disabilities, unskilled migrant workers and/or members of the informal sector, stateless persons, refugees, internally-displaced persons, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, indigenous peoples, persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, and the rural poor.

10.  We call for ASEAN Member States to ratify all core human rights conventions, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Their Families, and International Labour Organisation (ILO) core labour standards.

11.  We urge ASEAN to expedite the finalization of the instrument on the protection and promotion and the rights of migrant workers in the establishment of the ASEAN Community by the 31st of December 2015.

12.  We also request ASEAN to review its investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and expand it further in recognition of the new problems that arise from capital mobility in the region.

13.  We urge ASEAN to emphasize people-centered security instead of state-centric security. To this end, we call on ASEAN human rights bodies to pay greater attention to extra-territorial obligations among ASEAN Member States.

14.  We call for ASEAN to establish an ASEAN Women’s Forum to regularly discuss the state of gender equality in the region.

 15.  We request that ASEAN translates its policies and publications to local ethnic languages.

Meaningful and Effective Civil Society Engagement

 16.  ASEAN should ensure people’s substantive participation in decision-making processes with adequate and accurate information as the basis for decisions. Substantive participation requires a democratic environment where people are free to peacefully form associations, voice their opinions, have access to information, and engage politically without intimidation and fear of persecution from governments.

17.  We call for ASEAN sectoral bodies and organs to develop mechanisms for civil society consultation and participation on a regular basis.

18.  We call on ASEAN to provide means of youth capacity-building to participate in platforms such ASEAN Forum on Youth Policies and contribute to the developing an ASEAN Youth Charter.

19.  We call for ASEAN to strengthen the capacity of the communications office within the ASEAN Secretariat staff to be able to deal with stakeholders, including civil society organisations and the public at large.

20.  We demand that ASEAN establish a mechanism within the ASEAN Secretariat to follow-up recommendations made by the ASEAN Youth Forum and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF).

21.  We call for ASEAN to establish an ASEAN University to widen access to internship opportunities and knowledge related to ASEAN studies for all ASEAN Member States.

22.  As Malaysia will be the next chair of ASEAN in 2015 and as the ACSC marks its 10th anniversary there is now space for retrospection on the success, challenges, and threats in the region. We demand that the Malaysian government include the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as part of the 2015 ASEAN Chair’s agenda. This would include measures that ensure substantive equality, non-discrimination, participation, accountability, and transparency which reflect the country’s initiative in revitalizing moderation.

Three Malaysians CSO participants together with Dato Hasnudin Hamzah
(Malaysian Permanent Representative to ASEAN)


23.  We reiterate our commitment to engage with ASEAN’s process at both the national and regional levels. We believe this is one of the ways in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the ASEAN Charter: “to promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building” (Article 1.13 of the Charter).

Jakarta, 22 October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Proham on Malaysia in the UN Security Council

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. - File pix

Proham congratulates the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the government for the confidence the UN community has shown in electing Malaysia into the UN Security Council for a two year period (Jan 2015 to Dec 2016)

This is a timely opportunity for Malaysia to enhance Malaysia's global role through presenting a moderate approach to conflict resolution especially in the face of rising extremism. Malaysia through the Global Movement of Moderates can continue to play a strategic role in this context.

Malaysia is also well suited as being the Chair of Asean in 2015 and this is a critical period in the building of the Asean community - not just economic but also security which is most critical. In addition the building of an Asean community from social and cultural  dimensions is equally an important feature of security for the region. Malaysia therefore will be able to enhance Asean during this period of its membership in UN Security Council.

Proham also feels that this is a very important period in the context of the global community through the UN in formulating the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals and its new thrust on Social Development Goals (2016-2030) which incorporates economic, social, environmental and aspects pertaining to human rights, good governance, accountability and sustainability which are also seen in the context of both human and regional security.

This is therefore a unique and timely opportunity for Malaysia at this very challenging global period to play a role in setting a new global architecture from an ASEAN perspective.

Therefore Proham calls on the Malaysia government to use this opportunity to enhance the human rights and sustainable development position in Malaysia as this will provide the credibility to stand tall in the global arena.

In this context Proham calls on the Malaysia Government:-

To formulate and release the National Human Rights Action Plan.

To ratify the core human rights conventions such as ICERD
To foster a climate which is human rights friendly locally in Malaysia by creating a more democratic society for freedom of speech and expression
 
To use this opportunity to orientate and equip the Malaysian civil service on the UN system, Malaysia's global obligations and being domestically friendly to UN human rights and social development orientation for all communities. 

To engage with all the Human Rights civil society organisations including SUHAKAM and also provid public funds for human rights promotion and protection work especially in Malaysia and Asean.
 
Issued on behalf of Proham by Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Suhakam: Gov't defence of Bible burning alarmin

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is alarmed that Putrajaya defended the threat by right-wing group Perkasa to burn the Malay language Bible.

"Suhakam notes with disappointment and alarm the justification given by the government and the findings of the authority that the highly intemperate call to burn Malay language Bibles was not a threat to the larger society but was done to defend Islam," Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said in a statement.

The justification was made by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri in a parliamentary reply on Wednesday.

After being met with a torrent of criticisms, Nancy's office, in a statement the next day, insisted there was not enough evidence to prosecute Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali.

Ibrahim issued the threat early last year after taking offence that the Christian holy book in the national language used in worship mainly by East Malaysians had the word 'Allah'.

Hasmy (right) stressed that Putrajaya must walk the talk on its message of moderation.

“It is therefore imperative that such an intemperate statement, which is out of place in the globalised world of today, be not condoned by the authorities, lest it sends the wrong message to the public at large and will only deepen misunderstanding and division among them,” he said.

He added that the government must fulfil its commitments at the United Nations' second Universal Periodic Review to combat all forms of discrimination, including religious discrimination.

“In this regard, it is of utmost importance for the government to combat acts, including threats and harassment that promote religious extremism and hatred among different religious communities,” he said.

'Mockery of moderation'

Meanwhile, Council of Churches general-secretary Hermen Shastri (left) said Nancy's defence of the Bible burning threat was a mockery of the moderation it espouses.

“Any public statement made that threatens the burning of holy books of any religious community is not only repugnant but highly inflammatory. It should never be tolerated.

“The minister has made a mockery of the government’s urging for moderation and for maintaining mutual respect among the different races and religions in the country,” he said.

NGO Sisters in Islam (SIS) too condemned the government's position, warning that it will send a signal that aggressive behaviours, threats and public incitement are acceptable in the name of "defending Islam".

"If the reverse was done and an individual or group called on the public to burn the Quran, it is doubtful that the government would have been so generous," SIS said in a statement.

It added the threat is against the teachings of Islam and the Quran.

"Any act of disrespect or intimidation by any group in Malaysia should be condemned, as there is no place for religious hatred, extremism and chauvinism in our country.

“Defending Ibrahim's actions as a way to defend Islam represents a setback in achieving justice and equality," SIS added.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Can’t use Islam as defence, lawyers say of Ibrahim Ali’s bible-burning threat

“Islam is no defence. Doesn’t matter what religion the offender is,” Syahredzan told Malay Mail Online yesterday.
“I must emphasise that I am in no way advocating action to be taken against Ibrahim Ali for sedition at all. Nor do I necessarily agree that we should take any action against him.
“What I do question is the reasoning and justification given by the government for not pursuing action against him,” the lawyer added.
De facto law minister Nancy Shukri told Parliament earlier this week that Ibrahim was not charged in court over his alleged threat to burn Malay-language Christian holy scriptures because the police had concluded that the Malay rights group leader was merely defending the sanctity of Islam, and had not intended to create religious chaos with his statement.

The police's probe had also found that Ibrahim’s statement was directed at individuals who had purportedly distributed bibles containing the word “Allah” to students, including the Malays, at Penang’s Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Jelutong, Nancy had said.

In Penang last year, Ibrahim allegedly urged Muslims to torch Malay-language bibles that contain the word “Allah”, the Arabic word for God.

Christians are a minority group in Malaysia, comprising some 9 per cent of the population, while Malay-Muslims make up the majority.

Criminal defence lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad questioned the police’s decision to limit their investigation against Ibrahim to Section 298 of the Penal Code.

He noted that an offence under that section would be more difficult to prove in court as it requires the accused’s intention to be established, while an offence under the Sedition Act 1948 has no such pre-requisite.

“As such, if Ibrahim Ali were to be investigated under the Sedition Act, there is no doubt that he would have been charged,” Amer Hamzah told Malay Mail Online.

“I am not advocating for Ibrahim Ali to be investigated or charged under the Sedition Act, as I am against the Act.

“However, there appears to be a different treatment conferred to Ibrahim Ali in this case, despite the fact that Article 8 of the Federal Constitution says that all persons are equal before the law,” the lawyer added.

Criminal lawyer Joshua Tay from Bon Advocates said if Ibrahim were to be charged under Section 298 of the Penal Code, it would be up to the court to decide whether the Perkasa chief had intended to hurt an individual’s religious feelings or to defend Islam.

“The intention of Ibrahim Ali on whether to wound feelings or to merely defend the sanctity of Islam is a matter to be determined by the court based on evidence,” Tay told Malay Mail Online.

Last night, Nancy explained that the Attorney-General Chambers had decided not to charge Ibrahim “after considering the outcome” of the police probe, also saying that this was because the context of his speech was in line with the spirit of the Federal Constitution's Article 11(4).

While Article 11 guarantees the constitutional right of all Malaysians to freely profess and practise their faith, Article 11(4) says that state laws or laws for the federal territories “may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam”.
Such laws are not always used, but Selangor religious enforcers this January raided the Bible Society of Malaysia's (BSM) office and seized over 300 copies of Malay-language and Iban-language bibles, basing their actions on the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

The Christian community has, however said that the use of the bibles containing the word “Allah” is an integral part of the Bumiputera Christians' life ― especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, who have been using it in their worship and prayers for generations.
 
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/cant-use-islam-as-defence-lawyers-say-of-ibrahim-alis-bible-burning-threat#sthash.ncud5RIQ.dpuf

Minister contradicts the moderate position adopted by the Prime Minister

Proham Chairman


Proham expresses deep concern in the manner in which Minister Hajah Nancy Shukri has justified the decision not to prosecute Datuk Ibrahim Ali over his call to burn the Bible.

This position adopted by the Minister contradicts the moderate position adopted by the Prime Minister and deems to be inconsistent with the Federal Constitution. It is baffling to justify such a statement under article 11:4  as a defense of Islam.

Proham fully supports the position adopted by Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah "that the Minister's argumentation does not reflect the true teaching of Islam and cannot be used to justify such statement from Datuk Ibrahim".

Proham further supports the call for promoting inter religious harmony through dialogue and mediation and not by defending, justifying or condoning  such statements. 
 
Proham calls on the government to introduce a new legislation focusing on fostering national harmony and the repeal of the Sedition Act as promised by our Prime Minister.'

Issued by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Proham Chairman
Oct 10, 2014

AGAIN, UN TELLS PUTRAJAYA TO ABOLISH SEDITION ACT

A string of people have been charged with sedition, including elected members of parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 9, 2014.
 
By Anisah Shukry (MI)

Published: 9 October 2014 A string of people have been charged with sedition, including elected members of parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 9, 2014.

The United Nations (UN) has again urged Malaysia to withdraw the Sedition Act 1948, after receiving reports that Putrajaya is increasingly criminalising criticism towards the government or its officials. In a statement, four UN rapporteurs said the Sedition Act was being used in a way that prevents Malaysians from expressing and debating, freely and openly, a diverse range of political opinions and ideas. “It is time for Malaysia to adjust its legislation, including the 1948 Sedition Act, to be in line with international human rights standards, and take firm steps towards the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression,” they said today.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office last month expressed concern over the arbitrary use of the Sedition Act in the country. The four UN rapporteurs comprise the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression: David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.

The independent experts said they had received reports of at least 23 recent cases of persons charged with sedition, including elected members of parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists. They said that as recently as March, Malaysia had committed to the Human Rights Council to address international concerns regarding the Sedition Act, which they said “outlaws vague offences”. “We wish to build on this commitment and engage in a dialogue with the Malaysian authorities to end the criminalisation and prosecution of what appears to be legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. “We have offered our support to the authorities in this way forward,” the rapporteurs said.

According to the UN’s press release, its experts had expressed concern over Malaysia’s Sedition Act on several occasions. “The first UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Abid Hussain, who visited Malaysia 16 years ago, expressed concerns at the time that the Sedition Act could be used to suppress expression and curb peaceful assembly.”

This morning, The Malaysian Insider reported that police were now investigating former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan for sedition over remarks made about the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) or National Civics Bureau.

Last week, constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari was asked to give his statement to police after reports were lodged against him for allegedly insulting the Sultan of Selangor.

Earlier last month, activists Safwan Anang and Adam Adli Abd Halim were sentenced to 10 months and 12 months in prison respectively, for remarks made at a May 13 forum last year calling on the people to take to the streets over the general election results. Activist Ali Abd Jalil faces three sedition charges for allegedly insulting the Johor royalty and the Selangor Sultan in Facebook postings. Ali, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was released on bail after being detained for more than 20 days. On September 26, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had his statement recorded by police over a report lodged against him in 2011, where he allegedly uttered seditious remarks over his second sodomy case.

On September 20, police recorded a statement from lawyer Edmund Bon, who is being investigated for sedition for saying that non-Muslims are not subject to fatwas or the shariah courts. Former Selangor PAS ulama committee member, Wan Ji Wan Hussin, was charged on September 10 with sedition after posting allegedly seditious words on Facebook that belittled the Selangor Sultan’s role as head of Islamic matters in the state.

On September 4, journalist Susan Loone was arrested in Penang over her article based on an interview with state executive council member Phee Boon Poh and the mass arrests of the state’s Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) on Merdeka Day.

Other opposition politicians who have been charged with sedition include Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, Padang Serai MP N. Surendran, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Batu MP Chua Tian Chang, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer. – October 9, 2014.

 - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/again-un-tells-putrajaya-to-abolish-sedition-act#sthash.2SzdXkcg.dpuf

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

On budget wish list, human rights activists want Putrajaya to include civil rights education

BY EILEEN NG Published: 7 October 2014

 Human rights activists want Putrajaya to reverse its poor record with allocations for civil rights education and activities in Budget 2015 to show its commitment in fostering civil liberties in Malaysian society.

Activists singled out the police, calling for the force's exposure to other countries where enforcement officers practised civil rights in the course of their duties, and also suggested introducing the subject in schools. Yet, others noted that such commitment on paper would be meaningless without political will.

There has never been specific mention or allocation for human rights in the national budget although a wider notion of it is incorporated into other areas such as allocations for Orang Asli groups and for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). This is unlike the European Union which allocated 1.104 million euros for the period of 2007 to 2013 to fund the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, aimed at providing support to promote democracy and human rights in non-EU countries.

The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) feels the upcoming budget should have specific mention of allocations for civil society that undertakes human rights promotion and training work. Its secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said this will show civil servants that the administration was committed to human rights, instead of dismissing it as the rhetoric of government critics.

"The federal government provides funds for social welfare, consumer and women-based organisations. However, those working on human rights and the environment are often viewed as anti-establishment. There must be this clear change in public policy approach. "These funds for human rights work by civil society could be given to Suhakam to manage and monitor the output and outcome of their work," he said. Malaysia, he said, must "popularise" human rights and show that the government administration is human rights-friendly.

Proham secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria says Budget 2015 should have specific allocations for civil society that undertakes human rights promotion and training work. "A specific mention (in the budget) will be useful and timely in the current global climate of increased radicalisation of religion and the global terrorist movement undertaken in the name of religion," he said. "The PM in his budget speech must send the right message that the federal administration is against extremism by promoting the human rights approach."

Over the years, activists and human rights watchdogs have rapped Malaysia for its human rights violations. These have included attacks against sexual minorities, persecution of Muslim Shia and Ahmaddiya Islamic sect and the ban on Christians using the Arabic word “Allah” to describe God.

Putrajaya has also come in for criticism for declaring the human rights coalition, Comango, an unlawful entity and more recently, for using the colonial-era Sedition Act against the government’s detractors. A damning report by Human Rights Watch released on September 25 highlighted various abuses suffered by the transgender community in Malaysia, including sexual assault by religious officers and prison guards, extortion, daily fear of arrest by the authorities and violations of their privacy rights.

Nisha Ayub, spokesperson for transgender rights group Justice for Sisters, said education is sorely needed to create awareness about the community, whose members were often persecuted by the authorities and discriminated by society just because they were different. "Education starts from home and we need more information regarding transgenders so that families can give the necessary support if one of their own is a transgender person," she said. Such awareness will slowly change society's perception of transgenders so that they will not be discriminated in the future.

Justice for Sisters spokesperson Nisha Ayub says education is needed to create awareness about the transgender community."The media plays an important role, if the media portray a negative perspective towards transgender people, then it will colour society's perspective as well," she added.

Pusat Komas board member Jerald Joseph suggested that a human rights education syllabus be introduced in schools. He also said enforcement agencies like the police and court officials should be exposed to human rights training in collaboration with the United Nations. "Cut down the budget for Special Branch and reallocate the staff resources there for crime prevention. Spend more research funds for developing a human rights discourse," he said. It was the government's duty to educate the public on human rights and equality, Joseph said. "They can't allow extremists like Perkasa and Isma to take centre stage, if Najib is serious for Malaysia to be a model of moderation for the world," he said, referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. "He can’t go to New York and talk hollow moderation framework and here, in Malaysia, allow the flames of extremism to rise," he said in reference to Najib's recent speech at the United Nations general assembly.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen noted that political will is paramount if there is to be an improvement in Malaysia's human rights record. "How do we deal with serious human rights abuses perpetrated by the police especially custodial deaths? We know very few police personnel are disciplined or prosecuted for criminal offences even in blatant custodial death cases. "Of course, more budget for human rights training and CCTVs to be installed at police lockups are commendable but CCTVs are only useful if they work or maintained properly; training is only useful if they are complied with.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen says political will is paramount if Malaysia's human rights record is to improve. "At the end of the day, there must be accountability for human rights abuses and in order for that to occur, there must be political will to set up structures to deal with such abuses," he said.

Paulsen said that the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), which the government has rejected in favour of an integrity commission, was still the best available solution. The IPCMC was proposed by a Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2005 to look into custodial deaths but it never took off due to opposition from the police force itself.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni noted that extending benefits to some people or areas in the budget does not necessarily mean human rights principles are being exercised. "National budgets present an opportunity for responsible governments to integrate human rights practices into policy and infrastructure development. "Governments should tackle their national budgets with a human rights lens. When that happens, the development and protection of its people automatically assume focus and priorities fall into place," she said. She said Putrajaya should consider weaving in human rights principles into the 2015 national budget in all areas, including infrastructure and policy development, to demonstrate its commitment.

Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) co-founder Angela M. Kuga Thas said any discourse on the budget would be remiss if it does not include setting up independent mechanisms to address corruption. "No amount of funds dedicated to redress human rights violations will be sufficient if the environment is non-conducive to secure and protect the equality of all human beings in this country," she said. The country's developing status must go hand-in-hand with the wellbeing of its people, especially the marginalised, she added. – October 7, 2014. -

See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/on-budget-wish-list-human-rights-activists-want-putrajaya-to-include-civil#sthash.jV8Nr9YR.dpuf

NGO: Halt use of Sedition Act till new law is in



The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia (Proham) has called on the authorities to stop using the Sedition Act until a new law to adequately protect freedom of speech, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, is in place.

In a statement today, Proham chairperson Kuthubul Zaman (below) and secretary-general Denison Jayasooria also called on the government to host a dialogue with the Bar Council and other human rights organisations, on its plans to repeal the draconian pre-Merdeka Sedition Act 1948 and to replace it with the proposed National Harmony Bill.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The recent blitz by the authorities in using the Sedition Act has seen many individuals, including lawmakers, politicians, academicians and activists, being hauled up in court since last month.

It is also vital, Proham said, for the government to also release its human rights action plan, which Malaysia made as a commitment to the global community, during the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review discussions in Geneva.

Proham also said it supported the Bar Council's proposed peaceful walk next Thursday (Oct 16) as peaceful public expression is a fundamental human right.

“This provides a democratic avenue of expression whereby citizens can display their unhappiness through a constructive public display,”  the statement said