UN raps Malaysia on freedom of assembly

United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of assembly and association Maina Kiai yesterday expressed “utmost concern” over crackdown on peaceful assemblies in Malaysia.

Malaysia was specifically mentioned by the rapporteur during the 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.

“The special rapporteur expresses his utmost concern in relation to peaceful assemblies that were either not allowed or violently dispersed in a number of countries, such as in Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malawi, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Syrian Arab Republic,” the UN said yesterday.

While not mentioning Malaysia specifically, Kiai also condemned the use of tear gas as a method of dispersal.

“With regard to the use of tear gas, the special rapporteur recalls that gas does not discriminate between demonstrators and non-demonstrators, healthy people and people with health conditions.

“He also warns against any modification of the chemical composition of the gas for the sole purpose of inflicting severe pain on protesters and, indirectly, bystanders,” the UN reported.

'Let demonstrators disperse'

Kiai also reportedly spoke out against “the practice of 'kettling;' (or containment) whereby law enforcement officials surround demonstrators and not allowed leave”.

On a positive note, the special rapporteur praised the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) for “the monitoring role played...during a sensitive public demonstration, by deploying teams of observers.”

It is believed that in Kiai was largely referring to the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally.

He also commended Suhakam for the role it played in “receiving and investigating allegations of human rights violations and abuses”.

“The work of these institutions (like Suhakam) should be respected and facilitated by the authorities,” he said.

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