University honours Malaysia. Malaysia tortures prisoners. | Belfast and Beyond | 19 Feb 2009 | Amnesty International UK

University honours Malaysia. Malaysia tortures prisoners.

I see that Queen's University Belfast has awarded the King of Malaysia an honorary degree. I trust it was not for human rights law, the subject I'm studying currently at the esteemed institiution, given Malaysia's poor rights record.

Just last week, Amnesty pointed out how Malaysia had been failing to live up to its international commitments to human rights. We have previously noted how the country has locked up bloggers, detained people without charge, discriminated against gay people, tortured detainees and used the death penalty for a wide range of offences (including non-violent ones).

University Vice-Chancellor Peter Gregson, and NI Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey might, for instance, have raised the case of Sanjeev Kumar, a 24-year old mechanic who was arrested in July 2007 by Malaysian Special Branch.

During a 60-day interrogation, police officers reportedly beat him repeatedly, stepped on his back and hit his head with a plastic bottle filled with water. On several instances, a police officer made him drink his own urine and stuck a mop into his anus. During this time, he had no access to a lawyer, a court or his family. He is now paralysed on the left side and confined to a wheelchair.

I wonder did any of this come up in the conversations between Sir Reg, Professor Gregson and King of Malaysia, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong when they got together for the ceremony this week. Probably not.

Yesterday Professor Gregson, with Sir Reg present, signed an agreement with Malaysia which will allow the country to develop and share the experience of Queen’s in establishing and operating a successful medical registry, so improving public health. That's a good thing.

Can I make the modest suggestion that, perhaps on a return visit, the Minister and the Vice-Chancellor could sign a follow-up agreement? One which would share the expertise of the excellent Human Rights Centre at Queen's University's School of Law, also potentially improving public health through a diminution in the use by Malaysia of chemical-laced water cannon, torture, the death penalty…

Just a thought.

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