a UN body considers detentions under the Internal Security Act as arbitrary

22/07/2004
Urgent Appeal
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suaram, its member organisation in Malaysia, welcome the recent decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regarding five Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees in Malaysia. The organisations had jointly filed a communication regarding the detention in Malaysia since November 2003 of five students suspected of involvement in the activities of the Jeemah Islamiyah.

“That decision is a great victory for human rights defenders in Malaysia since it goes much beyond the individual cases at stake : the UN body questions the legality of the ISA under international human rights law”, said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH.

The Internal Security Act has been widely criticised inside and outside Malaysia in the past because it allows for an indefinite detention without trial of persons for security concerns - those security concerns being defined very vaguely. The ISA is often used to suppress dissent. It violates the detainees’ rights to a fair trial, including the right to a legal counsel and to family visits. Detainees held under the ISA are reportedly often subjected to various forms of torture.

In its recent decision, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that “the incomunicado detention without trial [of the five detainees] is a violation of their fundamental human rights. The authorities should produce them before a competent and impartial court and present evidence of their alleged acts or release them immediately if evidence can not be provided... The Working group considers that administrative detention on such grounds, even being in conformity with a domestic law means to deny the opportunity of a fair trial by an independent and impartial judiciary authority”. It consequently considers the detention as arbitrary.

“We urge the Malaysian authorities to implement the decision of the Working Group : this means that they should bring the five detainees before a court or release them immediately. In addition, we call upon the Malaysian authorities to act in the same way for the more than a hundred people presently detained under the ISA”, said Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of Suaram and Deputy Secretary General of the FIDH.

“The ISA should be repealed in order to bring the Malaysian domestic legislation in conformity with international human rights law, and in particular with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights”, concluded Sidiki Kaba.

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