Malaysia: Government urged to drop charges against opposition leaders
22 May 2012 11:01 pm
The Malaysian government should withdraw charges against opposition leaders for their participation in the “BERSIH 3.0 rally” held in Kuala Lumpur on April 28, 2012, said the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).
The key opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, along with party deputy president Azmin Ali and former party supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shaharin have been charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with participating in the “BERSIH 3.0 rally” under the new Peaceful Assembly Act.
The BERSIH movement, a coalition of some 84 organizations promoting reform of election laws and procedures, held a mass rally on April 28, 2012 at Dataran Merkeda (Independence Square). Days earlier, the authorities had obtained a judicial order to stop the protest, but BERSIH proceeded with a demonstration in the area surrounding the square. The protest proceeded mostly without incident but ended with police using excessive force, including teargas and water cannons, and beating and arresting as many as 471 protesters including journalists.
The three opposition leaders are the first to be charged under the recently passed Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, of which Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali may lose their post as elected representatives if found guilty.
“The charges brought against the opposition leaders confirm our concerns that it will be used to clampdown freedom of peaceful assembly rather than protecting it,” said Giyoun Kim, FORUM-ASIA’s Deputy Executive Director.
“Time and again, the Malaysian government has demonstrated its total disregard for international human rights standards on peaceful assemblies despite being a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We strongly condemns the unwarranted move and urge the government to take steps to bring the Peaceful Assembly Act in conformity with international standards”, Kim added.
Kim said the move by the government is politically motivated given that the ruling parties are under a lot pressure to reform the electoral system, which is not free nor fair before the next general election. The ruling parties have only time until April 2013 to dissolve the parliament and call for a general election.
“If Malaysia is to claim itself a democracy, the government should address the demands of Bersih by reforming the electoral system, rather than perpetuating further injustice by charging the opposition leaders in violating of freedom of expression and assembly of its people,” added Kim.
For inquiries, please contact:
Ms. Giyoun Kim, FORUM-ASIA, Deputy Executive Director, +66851205898, [email protected]
Mr. Sayeed Ahmad, FORUM-ASIA, Country Program Manager, +66842176150, [email protected]