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Malaysia: Delays of Habeas Corpus Hearing Unjust to 6 PSM members

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Bangkok, 23 July 2011) The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a membership-based regional human rights organization, expresses its disappointment over the adjournment of a habeas corpus hearing of six leading members of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)[1]. The Kuala Lumpur High Court postponed the hearing to 5 August 2011, after approving the application of the prosecutor for more time to file their affidavits yesterday. This postponement unjustly prolongs the deprivation of personal liberty of the six detainees on flimsy grounds.

The PSM 6, including a parliamentarian, were detained on 2 July 2011 under the draconian Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. They were charged for being the prime movers of a rally on July 9 organized by the Bersih, a coalition of 62 civil society organizations that called for electoral reform. On 6 July 2011, the six filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. Initially, the High Court scheduled the hearing on 12 August 2011. The lawyers of the PSM 6 succeeded in their application to the court to bring forward the hearing to 22 July 2011.

We believe the postponement of the habeas corpus hearing violates the six PSM leaders’ right to a fair trial, and denies them the right access to justice as well as their right to liberty. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “nobody shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”, yet, the Emergency Ordinance (EO) allows for indefinite detention without trial. While the application of the writ of habeas corpus is the only available legal recourse for the detainees to challenge the detention, international human rights laws require the detainees to be brought before a judge promptly, and to be entitled to a trial within a reasonable time.

The PSM 6 were initially accused publicly by the police of attempting to wage war against the king. However, in the affidavits filed by the police in the habeas corpus hearing, they have been detained for only allegedly being the prime “movers” of the 9 July 2011 mass rally for electoral reform organized by Bersih 2.0. Even this allegation had been denied by the Bersih 2.0 steering committee. The inconsistency of the charges and the tactics to delay the habeas corpus hearing only reflects the bad faith on the part of the Malaysian government to prolong unnecessarily and unjustly the detention of the PSM 6.

The right to freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. The Bersih rally was held peacefully. There is absolutely no ground to continue to detain the PSM 6 for merely exercising the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, even if they are prime movers of the Bersih rally, which they are clearly not.

FORUM-ASIA urges the Malaysian government to drop all charges against the PSM 6 and release them immediately and unconditionally.


(1) The PSM 6 are Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, Sarasvathy Muthu, Choo Chon Kai, Sarat Babu, Sukumaran A/L Munisamy and Aseer Patham Letchumanan.

For inquiries, please contact

Ms. Gayoon Baek, telephone number +66 85 0566548 and email at [email protected]