MYS 001 / 0713 / OBS 064.7
Sentencing / Judicial harassment
March 23, 2017
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Malaysia.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Ms. Lena Hendry, Programme Coordinator of the human rights NGO Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS) .
According to the information received, on March 22, 2017, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court sentenced Ms. Lena Hendry to a fine of MYR 10,000 (about EUR 2,130) or one year in prison for screening the documentary on the Sri Lankan civil war titled ’No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ four years ago (see Background information).
On February 21, 2017, following a successful appeal by the Prosecutor against her acquittal in 2015, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court had found Ms. Lena Hendry guilty of violating Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for the private screening of the documentary without prior approval from Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board. She was facing up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to MYR 30,000 (about EUR 6,390).
The Observatory condemns Ms. Lena Hendry’s sentencing, which merely aims at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Malaysian authorities to ensure that all human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activities in all circumstances without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
In the evening of July 3, 2013, Pusat KOMAS, together with the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC), organised a private screening of “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, directed by British Director Callum Macrae, in Kuala Lumpur. About 30 minutes after the start of the screening, about 30 officials from the Home Affairs Ministry, immigration, and police entered the Chinese Assembly hall and requested to check the film. The organisers negotiated with them to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening was over.
However, after the screening, officials insisted on checking the identity cards of all participants before they left the venue. The Home Affairs Ministry requested a copy of the film, which was provided by the organisers. Authorities also ordered the organisers - Ms. Anna Har, a member of Pusat KOMAS Board of Directors, Mr. Arul Prakkash, Pusat KOMAS Executive Director, and Ms. Lena Hendry - to go to the Dang Wangi police station in Kuala Lumpur. The three were detained under Section 6 of the 2002 Film Censorship Act and questioned for almost three hours by the investigating team from the Home Affairs Ministry. At about 2am, the three Pusat KOMAS representatives were released on police bail after their statement was recorded.
On July 1, 2013, Ms. Lena Hendry had received a call from the Censorship Board of the Ministry of Home Affairs, who asked the organisers to stop the screening because the film had not been vetted by the Censorship Board. She had replied that the screening was private and upon invitation only.
Furthermore, there were also attempts by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia to stop the screening. Embassy personnel faxed a letter to the KLSCAH asking the event organisers not to screen the documentary.
On September 19, 2013, the Home Ministry and Attorney General Chamber (AGC) filed a charge against Ms. Lena Hendry under Section 6 of the 2002 Film Censorship Act, according to which no one can screen any film or related publicity materials that have not been approved by the Censorship Board. Judge Ashraf Razal Abdul Manan granted her bail of 1,000 MYR (about EUR 213).
Subsequently Ms. Lena Hendry’s lawyers filed an application before the High Court to challenge the charges against Ms. Lena Hendry under the 2002 Film Censorship Act, on grounds that they were inconsistent with Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.
On April 11, 2014, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court dismissed Ms. Lena Hendry’s application, reasoning that the charges imposed a restriction reasonable and proportional against free speech, in the interest of public security, order and morality and were not in contradiction with Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
On March 10, 2015, the High Court of Malaysia ordered the suspension of the trial against Ms. Lena Hendry, pending a decision of the Federal Court on the constitutionality of the Film Censorship Act 2002, under which she had been charged.
Please write to the authorities of Malaysia asking them to:
i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Lena Hendry, all Pusat KOMAs members, and all human rights defenders in Malaysia;
ii. Ensure in all circumstances that Pusat KOMAS and its members as well as all human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international human rights instruments ratified by Malaysia.
· Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8888 3444, Email: email@example.com
· Mr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Home Affairs of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8889 1613 / +60 3 8889 1610, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Attorney General of Malaysia, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, Fax: +603 8890 5670 Email: email@example.com
· Tan Sri Razali Bin Ismail, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Fax: +60 3 2612 5620, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Amran Mohamed Zin, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 710 75 01, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 762 50 49, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Malaysia in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, March 23, 2017
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80