Open letter to Mr. Dato Abdullazh Haji Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister

Press release

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, wish to express its deep concern regarding the disruption of the “Federal Constitution - Protection for All Public Forum”, an open meeting organised in Penang by Aliran, a human rights NGO, and Article 11, a coalition of 13 NGOs, in order to discuss issues such as freedom of religion and the safeguard of the secular nature of the Malaysian Constitution.

Dear Prime Minister,

According to the information received, early in the morning on May 14, 2006, about 300 participants gathered near the hotel Cititel where the forum was to take place. In the surroundings, many policemen with roadblocks were present, stopping the cars to check the access to the hotel.

At 8:45 am, about fifteen minutes before the beginning of the forum, over 100 people gathered at the hotel carrying posters with slogans such as “Allah’s laws prevail over human rights” shouting in a very aggressive manner. Later in the morning, while several of these demonstrators tried to assault the hotel, the police came in and ordered the organisers of the forum to stop it within 30 minutes. As a consequence, this meeting could not take place.

The Observatory is very preoccupied by the fact that the police decided to cut short the forum, instead of guaranteeing the security of the organisers and of ensuring that it would take place without be disrupted.

In this regard, the Observatory reminds that, in accordance with article 12.2 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, “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”.

Besides, the Observatory urges the Malaysian authorities to ensure that human rights defenders be able to conduct their activities without obstacles, and to conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 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”, article 5 and 6c, which stipulate that “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, [...] to meet or assemble peacefully” and “to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these matters and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, as well as article 12.2 above mentioned.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities to comply with international human rights standards and international instruments signed or ratified by Malaysia, all the more that Malaysia was elected on May 9, 2006 as a member of the new United Nations Human Rights Council.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into account,

Yours sincerely,

Sidiki Kaba Eric Sottas
President of FIDH Director of OMCT

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