- For defenders
- How can I help?
Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Malaysia continue to face challenges, including in particular judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest, threats, intimidation and smear campaigns. Laws which are not in line with international human rights standards in relation to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association have been used to hinder the legitimate work of HRDs.
HRDs who work on minority rights are particularly vulnerable, especially in relation to their work on land and environmental issues. Other groups of HRDs who may face risks include those working on election monitoring and good governance, labour rights, and sexual orientation and gender identity.
As of June 2013, the Malaysian government has yet to accept requests made in 2002 and 2010 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to visit the country.
Malaysia has passed new laws and legislative amendments that could be used to limit and restrict the work of HRDs. Provisions of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), adopted by the parliament in 2012, allows to hold suspects incommunicado for 48 hours and in detention of up to 28 days without being brought before a judge. Police are allowed to arrest anyone if they “have reason to believe” that the person may be involved in security offences – which however remain vaguely defined as in previous legislation. Although the law was passed to replace the draconian and much abused 1960 Internal Security Act, there is a concern that the SOSMA may be used like its predecessor to silence critics of government, including HRDs, trade unionists and student activists.
Despite international concerns, the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) was adopted by the Senate in December 2011. The law replaced the 1967 Police Act, which regulated public demonstrations. The President of the Malaysian Bar Association, Lim Chee Wee, declared that the PAA is in fact more restrictive than the previous one. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association warned that “many of these restrictions are not justifiable under international law”. According to the PAA, street protests will be outlawed. It is also an offence for non-Malaysian to organise or participate in a peaceful assembly. Organisers are obliged to inform authorities 10 days prior to the dates on which the assembly will be held. PAA gives power to police to arrest any organiser or participant without an arrest warrant. Under the PAA no one under the age of 21 is permitted to organise an assembly, while persons under the age of 15 are not allowed to participate in peaceful assemblies. The law provides fines of up to RM 20,000 (€ 4,671) for violations of its provisions.
As with SOSMA, concern has been raised that the PAA may be used to restrict human rights defenders' right to organise peaceful assemblies. Prior to the KL 112 rally organised by a number of non-governmental organisations and opposition parties in Kuala Lumpur on 12 January 2013 to call for good governance, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail warned demonstrators that bringing children to the gathering would make them liable to face prosecution.
Authorities have also used censorship legislation to silence debate on human rights issues. In 2013, three human rights defenders were arrested and prosecuted for showing a documentary on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. In 2011, authorities also banned a festival organised by LGBT groups.
HRDs, who work in the eastern part of Malaysia and on the island of Borneo have generally been facing more restrictions than their counterparts on Peninsula Malaysia, who tend to have more access to international NGOs and other other foreign actors. HRDs in those regions have faced multiple charges as a result of their work on the promotion and protection of the rights of the native people. Many have faced travel bans and cannot as a result travel to Pensinsula Malaysia and to international conferences.
04 December 2013
31 October 2013
21 August 2013
12 March 2012
13 February 2012
Malaysia/Saudi Arabia - Saudi human rights defender Hamza Kashgari at risk of being deported to Saudi Arabia where he may face the death penalty
Malaysia: New assembly law will violate the legitimate right of human rights defenders to peaceful assembly
- 1 of 3