Open letter to Mr. Dato Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi, Minister of Home Affairs

Press release

Dear Sir,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deepest concern over the fact that, on August 18th, Ms. Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of the human rights organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), was denied entry into Sarawak by Immigration officers at Miri Airport.

According to the information received, Ms. Cynthia Gabriel was to attend a workshop entitled "Workshop on Globalisation and its Impacts on Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia" in Miri, Sarawak. Immigration officers at the airport told Ms. Gabriel that she was denied entry as her name was blacklisted. The officers kept her passport and booked a ticket back for her on August 19th, to Kuala Lumpur. Upon negotiation, she was allowed to stay overnight and was told to be back at the airport at 5.30 am. She was then given back her passport and took the plane.

No official information were given on the blacklist mentioned by the authorities nor on the reasons why Mrs. Gabriel’s name was on this list. According to the information received, Mrs. Gabriel was only told that additional names had been put on this blacklist in 1998.

The Observatory is preoccupied about these measures, aimed at hindering Ms. Cynthia Gabriel’s activities as a human rights defender and notes with concern that similar measures preventing other human rights defenders from going to Sarawak territory have already been taken in the past by Sarawak local authorities.

These measures contradict both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (article 13) and the Declaration on Human Rights defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998, 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" (article 1).

The Observatory urges the Malaysian authorities :

i. to conform with the provisions of the Declaration on human rights defenders adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998, in particular its Article 1 above mentioned;
ii. to comply generally with the terms of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which guarantees freedom of movement and security of all citizens, as well as with international human rights standards.

Sidiki Kaba
President of the FIDH

Eric Sottas
Director of the OMCT

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