Death threats - MYS 001 / 0806 / OBS 102

Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Malaysia.

Brief description of the facts:

The Observatory has been informed by SUARAM, a Malaysian human rights organisation, of serious death threats received by Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer and the President of the National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (HAKAM).

According to the information received, in mid-August 2006, an electronic message was widely circulated to several addresses, including the online news portal Malaysiakini, presenting a photograph of Mr. Imtiaz Sarwar with the following message above the picture: "Wanted dead". The following text was written below : "Spread this to our brothers so that they recognise this traitor. If he is found dead on the roadside, let him be. Do not help !". This message was also circulated in the form of SMS (short messaging service).

These acts were denounced by the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM), the Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and the Muslim Professional Forum.

According to the information received, these threats would be directly linked to his holding of a watching brief on behalf of the Malaysian Bar[1] in the case of Ms. Lina Joy, who converted from Islam to Christianity and who lodged a complaint against the National Registration Department, after this Department rejected her application in order to have the word Islam deleted from her identity card. The case is now pending at the Federal Court after her appeal was dismissed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

More generally, Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar has been very involved in defending the right to freedom of religion, in particular by participating in the proposal of the setting up of the Inter Faith Council (IFC) mooted by the Bar Council and by speaking in a series of public forum on constitutional rights and freedom of religion organised by Article 11, a coalition of 13 NGOs.

The Observatory is very concerned about the threats against Mr. Imtiaz Sarwar, and more generally about the situation of human rights defenders involved in the promotion of freedom of religion in Malaysia. In this regard, the Observatory recalls that on May 14, 2006, a forum entitled "A Federal Constitution - Protection for All", organised by the human rights NGO Aliran and Article 11, in order to discuss issues such as freedom of religion and the safeguard of the secular nature of the Malaysian Constitution, had to be cancelled after around 100 demonstrators, who were holding posters and shouting slogans such as "Allah’s law prevails over human rights", tried to assault the hotel where the forum was to take place (see Observatory Open Letter of the to the Malaysian authorities, dated May 22, 2006).

Actions requested:

Please write to the Malaysian authorities asking them to :

i. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and all human rights defenders in Malaysia;

ii. conduct an immediate and independent investigation into these facts in order to identify the authors of the death threats against him, bring them to justice and sentence them according to law;

iii. conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", and article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration";

iv. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the People’s Republic of Malaysia.


Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister cum Minister of Finance Malaysia and Minister of Internal Security Malaysia, Prime Minister’s Office, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Fax: +603 8888 3444. Email:

Y.B. Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Bin Syed Jaafar Albar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Level 3, Wisma Putra, Precint 2, 62602 Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Y.B. Dato’ Seri Mohd Radzi Bin Sheikh Ahmad, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs,
Level 12, Block D1, Parcel D, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62546 Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Mr. Yang Amat Babahagia, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dewan Rakyat, Jalan Parlimen, 50 680 Kuala Lumpur.

Ambassador Mr. Dato’ Mohammed Kamal Yan Yahaya, Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels, 414 A av. De Tervueren, 1150 Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Fax: + 32 2 762 50 49

Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in Geneva, International Centre Cointrin (ICC), Bloc H, Route de Pré-Bois 20, Case postale 1834, 1215 Genève 15, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 710 75 01, Email:


Geneva-Paris, August 25, 2006

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email :

Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

[1] A watching brief is an instruction to a barrister to follow a case on behalf of a client not directly involved.

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