AI: Arrest of Malaysia protesters a troubling sign for human rights defenders

[JURIST] On Thursday Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] expressed concern [statement] over the state of human rights defenders in Malaysia. AI argued that the arrest of 19 peaceful protestors shows that the current state of human rights in Malaysia is lacking. AI and SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) [advocacy website], a leading Malaysian NGO, recently criticized [JURIST report] the Malaysian government for curtailing freedoms of expression and assembly in their periodic report [text, PDF] released by AI detailing Malaysia's current civil and political rights record. AI condemned the protesters' arrests as being arbitrary and stated that the arrests serve as an example of the Malaysian authorities' restrictions on the ability of human rights defenders to operate in the country. The protesters were protesting against the demolition of Kampung Hakka Mantin historical village, and several were reportedly abused and harassed by the arresting officers. Those arrested have since been released on bail pending formal charges.

Malaysia continues to be the subject of criticism over its human rights records. In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned [JURIST report] the country's proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 that would reinstate detention without trial for certain individuals with criminal histories. In May the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs [official website, in Malay] seized more than 2,500 copies of newspapers [JURIST report] published by opposition parties. The Ministry stated that the seized newspapers were sold in violation of their publication licenses, which limit the distribution of opposition party newspapers to party members, not public retail sale. In October 2012 a Malaysian court awarded damages [JURIST report] 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) that permits indefinite detention without trial for terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents.

 

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