PROHAM is appalled at the position of the Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who while launching his book on the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) 1959 on 15 August 2017 criticised human rights defenders accusing them of defending criminals.
The Home Minister reportedly alleged that critics of the law often masquerade as human rights defenders. Apparently he had said, “They claim to defend human rights, but in court, they defend criminals accused by the authorities.”
It is a principle of natural justice that everyone has the right to a trial and to be heard in court. Article 10 of the UDHR states "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
Furthermore the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is an important element of our criminal justice system. For the Home Minister to ignore this basic right and malign human rights defenders and presumably lawyers who take up cases to defend detainees is to willfully dismiss Article 11 of the UDHR which states "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”
If the genuine concern is to eliminate serious crimes including organised crime PROHAM believes we have a battery of existing laws to do just that. We want to take this opportunity to refer to the report by the Royal Commission on the Malaysian Police, which has a dedicated chapter to combating crime. The “ Enhancing Investigative Policing” chapter has 26 recommendations to improve police investigations without having to resort to detention without trial.
PROHAM strongly opposes detention without trial.
In 2014, the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (“POCA”) was amended and expanded to reintroduce detention without trial and the recent amendments, the Prevention of Crime (Amendment) Act 2017 (POCAA), further slice off the rights of a detainee. The latest amendments takes away the right to appear before an Inquiry Officer and the Prevention of Crime Board (POCB) so as to respond to the allegations made against the detainee. The detainee is now deprived of a fundamental right to be heard nor have a lawyer make representations before the Inquiry Officer or the POCB.
PROHAM urges the government of Malaysia to study the Report of the Royal Commission on the Malaysian Police, which states “Preventive laws are undesirable because they deny the individual his personal liberty without a right to trial in an open court as provided for in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and international Bill of Rights. This right is the most precious that the individual has and it must be safeguarded.”
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman & Ivy Josiah, Secretary General
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)