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Malaysia: Release the 6 Detainees, Abolish the Emergency Ordinance

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The Malaysian government should release immediately and unconditionally the six supporters of Bersih rally who are still being detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance since July 2. Detention without trial under the Emergency Ordinance goes against every precept of human rights and justice and should be abolished as recommended by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said the Bangkok-based regional human rights organization, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).

The six detainees are Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, Sarasvathy Muthu, Choo Chon Kai, Sarat Babu, Sukumaran A/L Munisamy and Aseer Patham Letchumanan. They are all leaders of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).  Devaraj is also a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental integrity of the six detainees. They are under solitary confinement, subject to long hours of interrogation and have limited access to their lawyers and family. We are especially appalled that Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj was denied his medicine and had to rush to Penang General Hospital on June 28 and again to the National Heart Institute (IJN) on July 9 for his heart ailment. Denial of medical treatment is inhumane and a violation of human rights,” said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of FORUM-ASIA.

“The Malaysian government should immediately consent to the request of the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to visit the six Emergency Ordinance detainees. Any delay will only reinforce public perception that the government may want to hide possible ill treatment of the detainees,” said Yap.  Visiting detention centers is one of the mandates of SUHAKAM under the SUHAKAM Act.

FORUM-ASIA also expressed disappointment that the court hearing for the application of the writ of habeas corpus by the six detainees is set for 22 July, almost a month from the date that they were first arrested. “Denial of personal liberty is an urgent and serious matter and should be scrutinized as soon as possible, especially if it is done under a legislation that allows for detention without trial,” said Yap.

FORUM-ASIA said that the Malaysian government should repeal the Emergency Ordinance to show that Malaysia is sincere in cooperating with the United Nations Human Rights Council as a member.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that conducted an official visit to Malaysia in 2010 recommended the Malaysian government to abolish the Emergency Ordinance. Detention without trial is ruled to be a violation of the basic right to trial and the right to be presumed innocent before proven guilty.

The six detainees were arrested on June 25 before a mass rally organized by Bersih July 9, which saw tens of thousands of protestors turn up in the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding free and fair elections. A total of 1,667 protestors, including 151 women and 16 children, were arrested during the rally.

For inquiries, please contact: Ms. Cecile Gaa, tel: +66 2 6532940, mobile: +66 87 5880134