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Malaysia Should Not Use ISA While Pending Abolition

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(18 November 2011, Bangkok) The recent arrest of 13 Malaysians and foreigners under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) casts serious doubts on the credibility of the Malaysian government who promised last September to abolish the ISA and to respect human rights. The Malaysian government must immediately release or charge these detainees in an open court if the promise of the Malaysian government is to be taken seriously by the international community said the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights organization with 49 members in Asia.

Thirteen people, seven Malaysians and six foreigners, were arrested in Tawau in Sabah state from 14 November to 16 November 2011 by a special team from the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters.

The arrests were made without warrants on the suspicion that the detainees are terrorists. However, the police have failed to provide grounds for the arrests and the circumstances of the detention.

The families of the detainees were informed that their relatives were detained under the ISA only the day after the arrests took place. Under the ISA, the thirteen can be kept incommunicado for 60 days, after which the Home Minister can approve a detention order for a renewable two year period without trial, resulting in indefinite arbitrary detention. International standards however require that people under arrest and in detention are charged promptly after their arrest and are awarded fair trial.

On 15 September 2011, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak unexpectedly announced the government’s plans to abolish the ISA and three emergency declarations. No time line was set but it is expected that the repeal of these laws has to wait for the parliamentary session in March 2012. These recent arrests cast serious doubts on the government’s sincerity in abolishing the ISA and unlawful detention.

FORUM-ASIA expressed its grave concern that the Malaysian government will continue its practice of preventive and arbitrary detention even if the ISA and three emergency declarations are abolished. “This concern is reaffirmed by the government’s statement to introduce two new laws to replace the ISA on 15 September and now by the new arrest under the ISA”, said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of FORUM-ASIA.

In its report of 8 February 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated that the ISA has become unnecessary since the Penal Code has been amended to make terrorism a specific offence under Malaysian law.[1] The Malaysian government should stop enacting the two new laws as Malaysia already has a sufficient legislations in place to combat terrorism, said the regional human rights group.

The group called on the Malaysian government to demonstrate its strong political will to end arbitrary detention by taking immediate steps to abolish the ISA and other emergency declarations that permit arbitrary detention to put a halt to decades of gross human rights violations.


For more information or media interview, please contact:

  • Mr. Yap Swee Seng, FORUM-ASIA, Executive Director, +66 81 868 9178, [email protected]
  • Ms. Gayoon Baek, FORUM-ASIA, East Asia Programme Officer, +66 85 056 6548, [email protected]