PETALING JAYA: Amnesty International has hit out at a recent crackdown on activists in Malaysia, calling it a misuse of the criminal justice system.
Pointing out that more than seven political activists and human rights defenders have been summoned by the police in the past week alone, the NGO said the trend further restricted public debate while reducing the space in which civil society operates.
In a statement today, it expressed alarm that the authorities were increasingly responding to activities aiming to express dissent and protest against injustice with “baseless police investigations”.
“The Malaysian authorities must immediately halt the misuse of the criminal justice system to harass and intimidate political activists and human rights defenders for their peaceful activities,” it said.
It said they should instead “publicly recognise the legitimate work of human rights defenders, and refrain from intimidating and harassing them”, including by abusing the criminal justice system to curb peaceful human rights work.
On May 15, three Bersih activists – Mandeep Singh, Zoe Randhawa and Chan Tsu Chong – were investigated under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for their alleged failure to provide police with a 10-day notice for a candlelight vigil for Maria Chin Abdullah.
The vigil had been held in November last year to protest the Bersih chief’s detention without trial for 11 days under national security laws.
On May 17, another three activists – Suaram’s Sevan Doraisamy, Bersih activist Rama Ramanathan and Thomas Fann from community organisation Engage – were summoned by the police for questioning scheduled on May 24.
They had been calling on the authorities to take immediate action over a recent spate of apparently enforced disappearances, including that of Pastor Raymond Koh who has been missing since February.
They are now being investigated under Section 505B of the Penal Code for making statements allegedly conducive to “public mischief”.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s S Arutchelvan was summoned to the Dang Wangi police station and questioned about his involvement in the May Day rally in Kuala Lumpur. This followed claims that the organisers had failed to obtain police authorisation in time for the rally.