Lawyers challenge Singapore attempt to use ‘fake news’ law over prison killings claim

From Free Malaysia Today

Lawyers for Liberty adviser N Surendran, flanked by Gurdial Singh Nijar and LFL director Melissa Sasidaran, talking to reporters. Pic from FMT.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) is seeking to declare as illegal an order issued by Singapore’s home minister, under its anti-fake news law, over claims by the rights group on brutal extra-legal execution methods carried out at the Changi Prison.

In a suit filed at the High Court registry today, LFL is also seeking a court pronouncement that the minister, or anyone acting under his authority, could not act to enforce any provision of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

“A correction direction issued by Singapore under Pofma is illegal, oppressive and an attempt to silence Malaysian citizens from exercising their right to free speech in Malaysia,” they said.

Apart from LFL, the other plaintiffs are its adviser, N Surendran, and director Melissa Sasidaran.

Minister K Shanmugam is named as the defendant.

The swift action came about after LFL claimed it had received evidence of such methods by prison guards in the event the hanging procedure fails during execution.

Surendran, who is also a lawyer, alleged that if the rope broke during a hanging, a prison officer would pull the rope that was around the neck of the prisoner towards him.

“Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.” he had said.

Saying the details were shared by a former executioner at Changi Prison, Surendran said prison guards would kick the convict’s back “with great force in order to break it”, while ensuring there would be no tell-tale marks in case there was an autopsy.

Singapore said the claims were “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations”, adding that all judicial executions in the state were carried out in strict compliance with the law.

It also instructed the Pofma office to issue a “correction direction” against LFL’s statement on its website.

Meanwhile, lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said this was an unusual action against Singapore as the penalty for violating Pofma carried a jail term.

“They can issue a warrant of arrest against Surendran and Melissa to face charges there,” he said.

Gurdial, who is taking up the case with Ambiga Sreenevasan, said the minister could rely on sovereign immunity in not responding to the suit but, at the same time, he had encroached into fundamental rights of Malaysian citizens.

“You cannot extend your laws against the citizens of another nation,” Gurdial said, adding that he hoped the minister would contest the action in the Malaysian court.

Meanwhile, Ambiga said it was imperative for the plaintiffs to file this action against the minister as the new Malaysian government has repealed its Anti-Fake News Act.

Meanwhile, in an affidavit in support of the action, the plaintiffs said LFL’s statement issued on Jan 16 was in the public interest as there were many Malaysians facing the death penalty in Singapore.

They said the minister issued an order to do a correction and failure to do so was an offence under Pofma, which carried a fine of up to S$20,000 or a maximum jail sentence of 12 months for individuals.

They said LFL had issued a press statement three days ago dismissing the minister’s stand.

Lawyers’ group says resignation of country’s two top judges a welcome move

Source: Malay Mail 

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa – Taken from the Malay Mail Online

PETALING JAYA, June 13 — Lawyers’ group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) welcomes the resignation of Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration had eroded judicial independence by ushering in the duo’s appointment despite the barrage of criticisms and legal challenges filed against them.“Their departure is only the first step in restoring the tarnished reputation of our judiciary while senior and more qualified judges should no longer be overlooked and frozen out of promotion in favour of junior judges.

“The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) must also be reformed to ensure that the selection and elevation of future judges will be devoid of political consideration,” he said in a statement today. Read more

Call to make Internet access a constitutional right should be supported — Lawyers for Liberty

Source: Malay Mail

BY LAWYERS FOR LIBERTY

JUNE 12 — Lawyers for Liberty supports the recent call by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo to make Internet access a constitutional right, or at the very least a legal right.

Should this proposal become a reality, Malaysia will be the first Asian country to join the ranks of a growing group of mostly European states such as Estonia, Finland, Spain and France in ensuring that all citizens have a legal right to broadband access. More recently in 2016, the UN Human Rights Council declared Internet access a basic human right. Read more

Stop all fake news charges pending review, says lawyers’ group

Source: Malaysiakini

All enforcement and prosecution under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 should be stopped pending the outcome of a challenge against its constitutionality, said watchdog group Lawyers for Liberty today.

LFL advisor N Surendran in a statement said this in response to news reports this morning that a Danish national will be the first person to be charged under the Anti-Fake News Act for allegedly making a false claim against the police.

“I call upon the home minister and attorney-general to halt all enforcement and prosecution under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 pending the outcome of a test case now awaiting hearing in the KL High Court,” said Surendran.

He was referring to a constitutional challenge filed by Malaysiakini last week against the legislation. Read more

Give Stateless Kids A Future, Lawyers Group Tells Government

Source: FMT News

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty has urged the home ministry to resolve the problem of stateless children as their futures are at stake.

Human rights lawyer N Surendran said such cases had been occurring for a long time, yet nothing had been done.

Speaking at a press conference on the wrongful denial of citizenship to young Malaysians, he said there were many children who were born in Malaysia but had been denied their fundamental rights by the government, including the National Registration Department (JPN) and the home ministry.

“Under the Federal Constitution, the children are entitled to citizenship, but their rights have been denied.

“The authorities have breached the law by not following the provision under the Federal Constitution,” he said today. Read more

NGOs fear more arrests with proposed law against fake news

Source: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — Human rights groups have raised concerns that free speech could be curtailed by proposed legislation to curb fake news.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia chairman K. Arumugam said that in order for implementation of laws against fake news to be a success, the strengthening of other institutions like the judiciary and enforcement agencies had to take place first.

“The proposal to enact new laws to fight against fake news is also linked to the fight for greater freedom of expression because of the government’s intolerance in using existing laws like the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972, the Communications and Multimedia Act, among others,” he said.

Read more

Enough with ‘pondan’ and other media distortions of transgenders — Eric Paulsen

Source: Free Malaysia Today

BY ERIC PAULSEN

In the latest twist to the ongoing Nur Sajat saga, the well-known cosmetic entrepreneur bemoaned the preoccupation of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the public over her gender identity.

“This gender issue… is like the country’s biggest issue,” she wrote in Malay on her Facebook page. She continued: “Should Nur Sajat’s issues really be the topic of conversation in this country? Think about it!”

Despite the public embarrassment, however, Nur Sajat’s story represents an opportunity to start a conversation that has been put off for far too long. Transgender persons in Malaysia are often vilified by means of misrepresentation in the news media.

Read more

Bilqis appeal: There are real crimes for govt to go after, say activists

Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A human rights NGO has questioned the government’s decision to appeal the acquittal of a woman who dropped balloons at an event attended by the prime minister and his wife in 2015.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen also questioned the need to secure a conviction for a minor incident, adding that it was a “waste of resources”.

“Surely there are real crimes for the public prosecutor to go after?

“He must not forget that he acts as a guardian for public interest. What public interest is being served by continuously appealing such a petty matter?”

Read more

Group: Special court for human-trafficking cases should not be merely to maintain country’s ranking

Source: Malay Mail Online

Lawyer Eric Paulsen said having a specialised court will be effective in clearing a backlog of pending cases related to human trafficking but added that it still however raises some concern. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa via Malay Mail Online

PETALING JAYA, Jan 19 — Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen lauded the government’s move to set up a special court to deal with human-trafficking cases but cautioned against using it to merely show a high number of prosecutions to reach some Key Performance Index (KPI).

Paulsen said having a specialised court will be effective in clearing a backlog of pending cases related to human trafficking but added that it still however raises some concern.

“Our concern is how genuine will the implementation of the court be especially at the prosecution side,” he told Malay Mail.

Paulsen cautioned against giving those fighting human trafficking “false hope” by setting up the court simply to raise the country’s ranking internationally.

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Our prison system archaic, says Paulsen

Picture of eric paulsen nur jazlan anwar

PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry’s censure of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for issuing statements from jail has prompted a human rights lawyer to denounce the Malaysian prison system as archaic. Pic drawn from Free Malaysia Today

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Speaking to FMT, Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen complained that the Malaysian system was, unlike progressive systems around the world, still based on the principle of punishment rather than rehabilitation.

“If we look at more progressive prison systems such as those in the Nordic states, we see that the prisons are aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment and this means that prisoners retain many of their rights. including free speech, internet access and even the right to vote,” he said.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed recently warned Anwar against issuing statements without approval from prison authorities, saying it could affect his jail term.

“Lately, several statements have been issued by Anwar and I wonder whether he really made the statements,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

“If the statements were relayed through third parties and were not approved by the Prisons Department, then it is an offence that can affect the jail period.”

Read more