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16th HRC: Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

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16th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Thank you, Mr. President. FORUM‐ASIA and its member organization in Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), welcome the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Malaysia (A/HRC/16/47/Add.2). [1] In particular, we strongly echo the recommendation of the Working Group that the government of Malaysia must take steps to repeal the four preventive detention laws, namely, the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act and the Restricted Residence Act.

The government’s announced intention to amend these laws, which apparently would seek to reduce periods of preventive detention[2], does not in the least address the standing concerns of the Working Group that these laws severely impede the detainee’s right to a fair trial and their access to legal counsel. The total lack of understanding of the government of the core human rights norm that “detention should be only ordered by a court of law”, was already shown two years ago when Malaysia told this Council during the Universal Periodic Review that preventive detention legislation − that is, detention-without trial laws − is “of vital importance to national security”.[3] It is deplorable that this stance was repeated by the government representative yesterday during her statement to the Council.

We are also deeply disturbed at the fact that the government of Malaysia has been aggressively recruiting members for the Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (RELA), from 1.6 million to nearly 2.6 million as of 31 January 2011. RELA members stand accused of various forms of abuses and ill‐treatment against detainees.[4] As the Working Group recommended, RELA “should not be used for any law enforcement purposes or for the management of immigration detention centers”.

Mr. President, as emphasized during the Panel Discussion of this Council in September 2009, detention should only be the final resort when it comes to irregular migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons. States should adopt alternative measures to immigration detention, such as regular reporting to authorities, conditional release or open centers. In this regard, we would be interested to hear from the Working Group whether, during their country visit in June 2010, discussions took place with the concerned Malaysian authorities regarding any alternative measures to immigration detention.

As a member of this Council, Malaysia must uphold the highest standards of human rights promotion and protection. The government of Malaysia must stop delaying becoming a party to core human rights treaties − in particular, the ICESCR, the ICCPR, the ICERD and the CAT, and provide a clearly defined timeline for implementing the Working Group’s recommendations. Thank you, Mr. President.


[1 ] SURAM Press Statement, “Mission Report on Malaysia by Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Implement Recommendations Now!, 7 March 2011,

[2 ] SUARAM Press Statement, “Government Must Act Immediately on UN’s Call for the Repeal of Detention‐Without‐Trial Laws and End Detention of Refugees and Asylum Seekers”, 21 June 2010,

[3] Report of the UPR Working Group on Malaysia, Addendum‐Views on Conclusions and/or Recommendations, Voluntary Commitments and Replies Presented by the State under Review (A/HRC/11/30/Add.1), 3 June 2009, p. 6, no. 13

[4 ] SUARAM Press Statement, “Changes to Immigration Detention Centres Must Respect Human Rights”, 26 August 2010,


Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Temme Lee on behalf of FORUM-ASIA

More information on 16th UN Human Rights Council