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Malaysian government risks being seen as involved in a cover-up, civil society says

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The Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), a coalition of 83 non-governmental organisations, trade unions and political parties, including FORUM-ASIA member Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), has called on the Malaysian government to hold an open fair and trial for a man detained for almost two years under the Internal Security Act over his alleged involvement in an illicit nuclear weapons network. GMI said the government ran the risk of misleading the international community and being seen to be involved in a cover-up if it did genuinely comply with its international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Press release: Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA

ISA detention of Tahir: A cover-up of an untold mystery? 

(12 May, 2008) The recent statement by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar trying to justify the indefinite detention without trial of Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on the ground of averting Malaysia from possible economic sanction is dubious and misleading. B.S.A. Tahir, a Sri Lankan, was arrested in June 2004 for allegedly being involved in an illicit nuclear weapons network.

While there are obligations for state parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other related United Nations (UN) resolutions to prevent nuclear proliferation, it would be surprising to assert that these obligations justify or legitimize detention without trial such as those under the ISA.

On the contrary, human rights being the universal values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights obliges all nations to uphold human rights, including while countering terrorism. To amplify the importance of this principle, a Special Rapporteur on Promoting and Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism was even appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

The rule of law in international law requires evidence, and evidence can only be established in an open and fair trial. ISA lacks an open and fair trial, let alone the evidence for a conviction beyond reasonable doubt of a detainee. The pale assertion of Syed Hamid Albar that he is satisfied with the detention based on information from the police can hardly withstand any test of international law.

The international concerns about the case of B.S.A. Tahir would not go away easily, especially when the police investigation revealed that Tahir was the middlemen for Scomi Precise Engineering to obtain the manufacturing contract of a centrifuge component for use in Libya's uranium enrichment programme.

Scomi is a company controlled by the son of the Prime Minister. It has denied wrongdoing, stating that it was under impression that the production was for petroleum and gas (plants) intended for Dubai.

If the Malaysian government is genuinely concerned about complying with international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the right way to do is to get to the bottom of the matter, investigate B.S.A. Tahir's network and convict him in an open and fair trial with concrete evidence of his nuclear weapons activities.

Otherwise the Malaysian government runs the risks of misleading the international community and covering up an untold mystery with ISA detention.

Released by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, Chairman, 013 3682067