Today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) issued a trial observation report which raises serious concerns about the effect of the Internal Security Act (ISA) on due process and rights of defence in Malaysia. The IBAHRI maintains that the ISA is inappropriate legislation and calls for its repeal. The in-depth report Malaysia: the delicate balance between security and due process follows the detention and trial of Raja Petra Kamarudin (Raja Petra), editor of the online newspaper Malaysia Today, who was accused of publishing articles on his website which allegedly tarnished the leadership of Malaysia and maligned Islam.
Owing to concerns that Raja Petra's arrest may have been politically motivated and that he may not receive a fair hearing, the IBAHRI arranged for observers to attend the hearing for his habeas corpus application. Based on the observation of Raja Petra's trial and subsequent interviews, the IBAHRI is seriously concerned that the ISA as currently drafted can be used to:
- Ensure the detention of individuals for unlimited periods;
- Remove an individual's rights to due process and to a fair trial;
- Punish individuals for offences for which they were not originally arrested and have not been tried;
- Limit freedom of expression and silence the peaceful debate necessary in a democracy; and
- Limit the freedom of assembly.
The IBAHRI understands that revisions to the ISA have reportedly been submitted to the Cabinet. The IBAHRI calls for the total repeal of the Act to ensure that Malaysian citizens are protected from these misuses and contraventions of international law.
Martin Šolc, IBAHRI Co-Chair said 'Due process and rights of defence are an essential component of the rule of law itself, which is the foundation of the democratic state. Malaysia's use of the Internal Security Act as drafted severely curtails individuals' rights of defence and amounts to an arbitrary exercise of state power. As the IBAHRI's trial report into Raja Petra's trial shows, the result is a chilling of free speech. We strongly urge the Malaysian authorities to abolish the Act altogether.'
To download the trial observation report: Malaysia: the delicate balance between security and due process from the IBA website, click here.
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