PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has expressed concern over preventive laws that appear to extend beyond the scope of terrorism offences.
In particular, the commission named the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), which it said was originally meant for use only when there was an imminent threat to the country from terrorists.
“In its short lifespan, Sosma has been used for non-terrorism purposes and Suhakam has recorded complaints alleging abuse from detainees during their 28-day detention, such as interviews being conducted under conditions designed to humiliate detainees,” it said.
In its newly released annual report for 2016, the commission also emphasised the “troubling trend to undermine any serious attempt to analyse the human rights compatibility of this so-called counter-terrorism legislation”.
“Bluntly put, the broad characterisation of ‘security offences’ under the act appears to suggest that its ambit extends beyond terrorism offences,” it said.
Suhakam added that Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteed that no one was to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, and that everyone was entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal of any criminal charge against him.
However, it added it had received multiple complaints of detention under laws such as the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), the Dangerous Drugs Act (Special Preventive Measures) 1985 and Sosma.
It gave the example of Bersih 2.0 chief Maria Chin Abdullah, who was arrested on Nov 15, less than 24 hours before the Bersih 5 rally.
Maria was detained under Sosma to facilitate investigations under Section 124C of the Penal Code for attempting an act detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Suhakam said it had visited her on Nov 22 and inspected the solitary cell where she was held. It noted that she was released after 10 days but had yet to be charged with any offence.
“Striking a balance between national security and human rights is crucial for both the success of Malaysia’s counter-terrorism strategies and to maintain the democratic epitomes of our nation.
“Malaysia must ensure that the measures taken to combat terrorism comply with its obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law.”