The Bill was condemned at UN Human Rights Council session ....Addressing the Council session in Geneva, Nalini Elumalai complains about severe restrictions on freedom of assembly imposed by the Malaysian government... Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr Maina Kiai
Thank you, Madame President. Forum-Asia sincerely welcomes the first annual report of the Special Rapporteur Mr Maina Kiai (A/HRC/20/27), which provides concrete examples of good practices, and we urge States to make full use of this practical tool in facilitating and protecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Mr. Kiai, as outlined in your joint press release made along with other Special Rapporteurs on 7 December 2011, severe restrictions have been imposed by the government of Malaysia through the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012. The Act prohibits among others: street protests; organisation and participation in peaceful assemblies by non-citizens; organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of 21; and participation in peaceful assemblies by children below the age of 15 years.
We further highlight that it places undue onerous responsibilities on the organisers of assemblies, contrary to your recommendation that “assembly organisers and participants should not be held responsible and liable for the violent behaviour of others”. We call on the government of Malaysia to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and to fulfil its obligation to actively protect peaceful assemblies.
Mr Kiai, we also draw your attention to the ongoing case of Boeung Kak Lake in Cambodia. Fifteen women human rights defenders and community activists were arbitrarily arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration, and subsequently prosecuted on spurious charges.
Meanwhile in India, protesters against the setting up of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu have been continuously facing threats and harassment, including warnings of arrest, sedition charges, confiscation of passports, and nullification of ration cards. Urgent appeals and the letters of allegation containing further details on the cases will be submitted for your necessary action.
Finally, Forum-Asia values your recommendations on the right to freedom of association, in particular those pertaining to the access to funding and resources. We note with regret that the government of Bangladesh did not provide a detailed response to all your concerns as contained in the addendum concerning the delay in authorising funding for the NGO Odhikar.
We are also disturbed by the proposed Foreign Donations Regulation Act 2011 in Bangladesh and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 in India, which could potentially result in tightened government controls over the establishment and activities of NGOs and associations.
Thank you for your attention, Mr. Kiai and Madame President.
The above oral statement was delivered on 21 June 2012 on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) during the 20th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
http://aliran.com/10147.html Article with Video....
Malaysia’s human rights abuses highlighted at UN ..... Yolanda Augustin reports on how Malaysian activists highlighted rights violations in Malaysia at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva last month. A team of civil society activists from Suaram, Bersih, Empower and Aliran wrapped up a week-long visit to the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 June 2012.
Their aim was to highlight human rights violations in Malaysia, in particular the clampdown on freedom of assembly, association and expression and police brutality at the Bersih 3.0 rally in April.
During the week the team took the opportunity to brief various UN Special Rapporteurs, country-specific permanent missions and human rights organisations on deteriorating conditions in Malaysia.
Earlier this month, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur for freedom of assembly and association, issued a joint press statement together with Frank La Rue and Margaret Soakage, the special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of expression and the situation of human rights defenders, requesting an invitation to conduct an independent inquiry into the human rights abuses during Bersih 3.0. To date, the Malaysian government has failed to respond.
Consequently, it was welcomed when Maina Kiai’s made special mention of the deteriorating human rights situation in Malaysia in his address to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, 19 June specifically in respect of a worrying worldwide trend: governments are using legislative powers to restrict and suppress the rights of citizens, particularly in relation to freedom of assembly and association.
At a parallel event, Kiai, reiterated that he took the human rights violations in Malaysia very seriously, saying, “…the state cannot lose its duty to protect people, protesters alike…” In response to questions posed by Suaram’s executive director Nalini Elumalai, he repeated his request for an invitation by the Malaysian government to visit the country ahead of the 13th general election.
Rights abuses under UN microscope
On Wednesday, 20 June, Suaram held a successful parallel event bringing together leading Malaysian human rights defenders to discuss the Malaysian government’s human rights abuses and international human rights obligations.
Nalini and Maria Chin Abdullah detailed the increasing incidents of government limitations on the freedom of expression, information, peaceful assembly and association.
A Samad Said and Ambiga Sreenevasan, both co-chairs of Bersih 2.0, delivered video messages concerning electoral fraud and police brutality.
Baru Bian, Sarawakian parliamentarian and land rights lawyer, also provided an important perspective on the harassment and intimidation faced by human rights defenders seeking to protect native customary rights in Sarawak and the government’s complicity in human rights violations by logging companies especially in Penan.
Participants were also shown video clips of the police brutality against protesters at the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur, including the disproportionate use of tear gas, water cannons, arbitrary beatings and media censorship.
The following day Nalini delivered an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of Forum-Asia.
She highlighted the severe restrictions imposed on freedom of assembly by the Malaysian government through the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) which includes prohibitions on street protests, the organisation and participation in peaceful assemblies by non-citizens, the organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of 21 and the participation in peaceful assemblies of children below the age of 15.
She also highlighted the onerous responsibilities placed on the organisers of assemblies, contrary to the recommendation of the UN Special Rapporteur that “assembly organisers and participants should not be held responsible and liable for the violent behaviour of others”.
She called on the government of Malaysia to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and to fulfil its obligation to actively protect peaceful assemblies.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Suhakam, also made an oral intervention. The commission shared the special rapporteur’s concern over peaceful assemblies “that were either not allowed or violently dispersed” in several countries, including Malaysia.
The commission affirmed the fact that “while peace and public order need to be maintained at all times, peaceful assemblies must be recognised as a legitimate democratic means for the public to express themselves”.
The commission also reiterated that the authorities remain responsible for assisting and facilitating the assembly process and that “action taken against provocateurs and counter demonstrators must not impede with the rights of other peaceful demonstrators”.
The commission also highlighted the fact that the PAA imposes too many restrictions and conditions in the organisation of such assemblies. It also noted that the government had recently instituted a court action against the organisers of the Bersih 3.0 rally for damages that were allegedly sustained during the rally on 28 April 2012.
The commission concluded “such actions by the government might discourage future assemblies and absolve the authorities of their responsibility to maintain peace and order”.
Stepping up the exposure of Malaysia’s human rights violations in the international arena forms a part of a wider strategy to hold the Malaysian government to account for its poor human rights record in the run up to Malaysia ‘s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in 2013.
Maria, executive director of Empower and Bersih steering committee member, highlighted the recent violence at Bersih 3.0 and raised the issue of the responsibilities of the state in ensuring the safety of those exercising their right to peaceful protest.
She also raised the issue of the recent intimidation, harassment and personal attacks against S Ambiga, including those by the Traders Action Council intent on laying claimed financial losses at the door of the rally organisers.
Kiai responded robustly: “…public space has as much right to be used by protesters as anyone else…” and urged for “one standard” – that peaceful protests be treated fairly whether or not the demonstration is in favour of the government, without bias or favouritism.
“Moreover, it was the responsibility of the state to ensure a peaceful and safe environment for any demonstrators; this responsibility cannot be transferred wholly to the organisers.
Yolanda Augustin is a Malaysian doctor training in the United Kingdom..... This report first appeared in malaysiakini.com
Malaysia: Earn seat on UN Human Rights Council .... The Malaysian government should act swiftly on commitments to improve rights to justify its candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council, said the New York-basedHuman Rights Watch. Malaysia should urgently adopt human rights reforms to justify its candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Malaysia is one of four Asia group countries seeking election to three-year terms on the council, whose members are required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
“Malaysia needs to show a stronger commitment to human rights if it wants to be taken seriously at the Human Rights Council,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should act swiftly to reform its laws, policies, and practices to show it respects the human rights of all the people in Malaysia. We don’t want to see a repeat of 2006, when Malaysia made a series of promises while seeking a seat, then broke them all.”
In its letter, Human Rights Watch called on Najib to revoke Malaysia’s long abused Internal Security Act and other preventive detention laws, amend or revoke laws that violate the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and act to end abuses against migrant workers and migrants sent to immigration detention centres. Human Rights Watch also urged Malaysia to meet its commitments to the council by issuing a standing invitation to UN human rights experts to visit the country, ratify core international human rights treaties, and rescind Malaysia’s reservations to the conventions on women’s and children’s rights.
Countries are expected to compete for the Council membership based on the contributions they will make to protecting and promoting human rights. Iran’s withdrawal last week from the race left only four candidates for four Asian seats, making Malaysia’s election likely. The process still requires that Malaysia win the affirmative support of at least 97 countries, a majority of the 192 members of the UN General Assembly.
To demonstrate the seriousness of its voluntary commitments and pledges made to the Human Rights Council in a 9 March memorandum, Malaysia should take a number of actions before the 13 May vote, Human Rights Watch said. Malaysia should issue a standing invitation – a pledge to accept all requests for visits – to all UN human rights experts under council mechanisms and immediately schedule visits from UN human rights experts who have made eight requests to visit since 2002.
The government should also immediately charge and bring to fair trial or release individuals held under preventive detention laws, including the Internal Security Act, Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985, and the Restricted Residency Act 1933. These laws should be amended or revoked, Human Rights Watch said.
“On and off promises to tinker with the Internal Security Act are not enough: it’s time the law was scrapped,” Robertson said. “Malaysia has for too long thought it could arrest anyone, jail them under a security law, and throw away the key. An effective criminal justice system cannot be rooted in a minister’s whim to detain people indefinitely without trial.”
Human Rights Watch also called on the government to revise or repeal the laws restricting the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression, among them the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, which requires annual licensing of publications; the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998, which places restrictions on the media by prohibiting “content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person;” the overly broad Sedition Act; and provisions of the Police Act that require a permit for any gathering of three or more persons. Police have used all of these laws to obstruct peaceful political activities and bar rallies promulgating messages the government does not want aired.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the treatment of Malaysia’s migrant workers, who make up approximately 30 percent of the country’s workforce. These workers make major contributions to economic growth, but suffer under government policies that require them to stay with the employer that sponsored them and leave them vulnerable to systematic exploitation and abuse.
Malaysia also mistreats undocumented migrants, regularly caning male migrants for illegal entry, and ignoring legitimate claims for asylum by numerous migrants, especially those from Burma and victims of human trafficking. Instead, the government incarcerates undocumented migrants in immigration detention centres in horrific living conditions.
The seriously overcrowded detention camps suffer from lack of potable drinking water, poor sanitation, insect and rat infestations, insufficient and non-nutritious food, and inadequate health services, Human Rights Watch said.
“There’s nothing good to be said about the Malaysian immigration detention centres,” Robertson said. “The sad question is how many more migrants need to die from preventable diseases before the government fixes them.”
Human Rights Watch also called on the Malaysian government to strengthen Suhakam, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, by ensuring that its commissioners are chosen in a transparent process that includes civil society, and by having its reports receive timely debate in parliament.
“Malaysia’s government has a long way to go to honour its voluntary commitments and pledges to the Human Rights Council,” Robertson said. “The clock is ticking – and the question is whether Malaysia will use its three years on the Council to prove its commitments and pledges are not just empty words?”
To read the letter Human Rights Watch sent to Prime Minister Najib Razak, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/node/90069
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Malaysia, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, Tun ... Isn’t Mahathir, in his desperation to ensure the BN remains in power forever, indulging in undemocratic actions to deny the opposition the space and opportunity to form an alternative government that would guarantee the demise of the BN, wonders P Ramakrishnan.
Tun Dr Mahathir’s warning that the country may never see a Barisan Nasional (BN) government again if Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is voted into Putrajaya, would provoke the response, “Good riddance to bad rubbish!” from many Malaysians who are totally fed up with BN rule.
After 55 years of BN rule, it is time to say, “Enough is enough! It’s time to go!!” Mahathir should stop whining that the federal opposition would do “everything possible” to stay in power forever if they were to form the next government. What’s wrong with that, Tun?
Didn’t you do that, Tun, to stay in power forever? Why is it when you did “everything possible” to cling on to power, it was the proper thing to do but it is utterly wrong now for others to aspire to, as you did.
Didn’t you refuse our beloved Tunku, the honest Hussein Onn, the fearless Tengku Razaleigh and others admission into Umno Baru so that you could remain in power forever without any opposition from within the party?
Didn’t you introduce the system of 10 bonus votes for every nomination you received from Umno divisions to ensure that you would continue to be the President of Umno without any threat of a challenge?
Didn’t you fix a minimum number of nominations from Umno divisions to be eligible to contest the president’s post? And didn’t this effectively prevent Tengku Razaleigh from challenging for the president’s post?
Didn’t the BN amend the federal constitution to disqualify those who resigned and thereby forced a by-election so that you could not be put to the test again? The amendment came soon after Shahrir Samad resigned as a BN parliamentarian in 1988, forcing a by-election in Johor Bharu, which he won convincingly as an independent, thus embarrassing you in the process.
Didn’t you have absolute control of the party and government so that your position would remain unassailable as long as you chose to stick around?
Wasn’t the BN guilty of gerrymandering to ensure that the BN had the best advantage to win the elections so that you and the BN could lord over the nation forever?
Didn’t you destroy the judiciary in 1988 when you played a role in the sacking of the then Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas? Wasn’t it to preserve and perpetuate your position?
Didn’t you shackle the powers of the royalty by holding semarak gatherings throughout the country to run down the royalty and by amending the constitution so that you and the BN could remain in power forever without any obstacles or obstruction?
Didn’t the BN deny allocations for all elected MPs and State Assembly members – unfairly and unjustly – so that the BN could continue to rule forever by pulling the purse strings?
Didn’t the BN engineer the overthrow of the legitimately elected Pakatan government in Perak ignoring the choice of the voters so that the BN could forever continue to be in power by whatever means?
Isn’t the BN hounding Anwar through trumped up charges and all other foul means to prevent his political ascendancy, which threatens the BN’s greed to remain in power forever?
Isn’t it because the BN wants to be in power forever – and by any means – that it is going after the brave Bersih leaders who had inspired Malaysians to march in their thousands demanding free and fair elections?
Aren’t you in your desperation to ensure the BN remains in power forever indulging in undemocratic actions to deny the opposition the space and opportunity to form an alternative government that would guarantee the demise of the BN?
Why is it, dear Tun, that only you and the BN can have the licence to do everything possible to remain in power forever? Why are you denying the loyal opposition the same opportunity to protect and preserve their position?
Haven’t you heard of the saying, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”?
Your hypocrisy is really nauseating, Tun!..... P Ramakrishnan, the immediate past president of Aliran, now serves on the Aliran executive committee.