Four UN special rapporteurs for human rights have asked Malaysia when it intends to accept their long-standing request for a visit to ensure compliance with international standards.
In a statement today condemning the crackdown on local human rights activists and dissenters, particularly Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, the human rights experts reminded the government they had made these requests since 2011.
“Special rapporteurs Maina Kiai and David Kaye recalled their pending requests to visit Malaysia, sent in 2011 and 2013, and 2014 respectively.
“We hope the government will respond positively to these long-standing requests, with a view to ensuring that the state’s legislation and practices comply with international human rights norms and standards”, said the rapporteurs.
They expressed concern particularly over the use of the Security Offences Special Measures Act 2012 (Sosma) as setting a “troubling precedent”.
“Although (Maria) has now been released, the detention of a prominent woman human rights defender under Sosma sets a troubling precedent, by suggesting that democratic participation can be a threat to national security,” they said.
“Her arrest will clearly have a chilling effect on civil society participation.”
The four are UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Kiai, rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Kaye, rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, and the chairperson-rapporteur of the working group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice Alda Facio.
They pointed out Sosma specifically states that no individual will be arrested under the law for ‘political activity’ or ‘belief’.
‘Receiving funds a right’
On allegations of Bersih having received foreign funds, the quartet said receiving funds is a basic human right.
“We are dismayed at these allegations and wish to remind the government of Malaysia that the ability to receive human, material and financial resources from domestic, foreign and international sources is a vital part of the right to freedom of association.
“The allegation that an organization might have received foreign funding in the past is not a legitimate ground to arrest and detain a human rights defender exercising her rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” they stressed.
They therefore urged the authorities to stop targeting human rights defenders such as Bersih and Empower under national security legislation.
Meanwhile, Bersih in their message today on World Human Rights Day 2016, said Maria’s detention was “one of the most recent and flagrant transgressions of human rights”.
The electoral reform group in a statement today said attacks on activists continue even after Bersih 5 and the release of Maria.