A Malaysian court on Tuesday awarded damages to a group of five opposition politicians and activists who were unlawfully detained pursuant to the country's controversial Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF], which permits indefinite detention without trial for terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents. Three politicians and two activists were detained without trial for two years after being arrested in 2001 following anti-government protests. In addition to other damages, the court awarded [Malaysian Insider report] 15,000 ringgit (USD $5,000) per person for each day spent in police custody. The government can appeal the verdict.
The lower chamber of the Malaysian Parliament [official website, in Malay] in April approved a law [JURIST report] aimed at replacing the ISA. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] originally announced [JURIST report] that the government would repeal the ISA as well as the Banishment Act of 1959 [text] in September 2011 and initiated the repeal [JURIST report] a month later. Malaysia's internal security laws were heavily criticized in the past by various human rights organizations. In June 2010 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] recommended [JURIST report] Malaysia repeal or amend its security laws to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. In 2009 the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog] initiated a demonstration against the law in which 10,000 to 20,000 people participated and resulted in 589 arrests. Of those arrested, 29 were charged [JURIST report] for their involvement in the rallies. The International Federation for Human Rights [advocacy website] had also urged [JURIST report] Malaysia to abolish the ISA in 2008.