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Malaysia told to release 65 detainees under the ISA

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isa_badge.jpgWhile human rights activists welcomed the release of a suspected nuclear black market dealer, they insist that about 65 other detainees currently held under the Internal Security Act, should also be freed.

The Abolish ISA Movement maintains that ISA is indefensible and unjustifiable in any circumstances and should be abolished immediately.

 Malaysia told to release 65 detainees under the ISA

On 23rd June 2008, the Government informed that BSA Tahir had been released on 6th June 2008 from the Internal Security Act (ISA) after being held for four years over alleged links with a nuclear black market.

The case of BSA Tahir drew additional attention because he was linked to a company partly owned by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son to procure the centrifuge components for the proliferation of nuclear technology.

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) or Abolish ISA Movement (AIM), in which FORUM-ASIA member in Malaysia, SUARAM, is one of its founding organisations, welcomes the release based on the basic principle that no one should be detained without trial for an indefinite period. Anyone detained should have the right to a fair trial failing which the person should be released.

This principle applies goes for all detainees, around 65 of them who are still languishing in Kamunting Detention Camp (about 300km north of Kuala Lumpur). Some have been there for more than six years. Some even had recommendations of release issued by the Advisory Board but their detention period were extended with no particular reasons given except stating that they are still a threat to national security.

GMI is astonished by the statements made by the Home Minister and government officials on the release of BSA Tahir when barely two months ago, he was still deemed a threat to national security and the country’s economy.

He was considered a threat because investigations revealed that he had links with an international network involved in the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Libya and therefore will expose Malaysia to breaching its commitments to the United Nations resolutions on the proliferation. (See Bernama report on May 7, 2008: BSA Tahir Was a Threat to National Security, Country's Economy – Syed Hamid).

The Home Minister however recently said that BSA Tahir was not a threat anymore and there was a recommendation for him to be released. He further added that he thought what needed to be investigated has been investigated.

GMI views this development as another ugly episode of the arbitrary nature of the ISA. Neither clear explanation nor details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks.

In fact under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. He has absolute power to detain a person without trial or proof, bypassing any judicial process as well as to extent the detention arbitrarily.

This is a clear violation of rule of the law. The wide array of powers provided under the ISA makes it a very convenient for abuse. In the case of BSA Tahir, questions must be ask why he was detained under ISA and not charged in the courts if investigations had been carried out.

Questions also arise as to the nature of the release. Why now? Who made the recommendation? What were the specific reasons? Is there any connection to the current political climate? GMI believes that as long as ISA still exists, none of the questions will be answered. Selective detention and release as well as extension of detention will continue to be at the mercy of the Home Minister.

GMI reiterates that the ISA is in total contradiction to all human rights principles, especially the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair and open trial, the right to legal counsel and the right to be free from torture. ISA is indefensible and unjustifiable in any circumstances and should be abolished immediately.