Malaysia: Government 'aimlessly stabbing in the dark' with new terror laws

“Indefinite detention without trial is contrary to human rights law and it will not stop terrorism.” - Hazel Galang-Folli

A new law that would allow terrorism suspects in Malaysia to be held indefinitely without charge, trial or judicial review, was condemned today by Amnesty International.

Under the newly enacted Prevention of Terrorism Act a suspect can be detained for 59 days without charge before being presented to a board, established to approve detention or restriction orders for individuals “in the interest of security of Malaysia”. This board will be appointed by the King and will sit outside of the jurisdiction of any court, with the power to renew detention orders indefinitely. Its decisions cannot be appealed.   

Today, the Malaysian government also tabled amendments to the archaic colonial-era Sedition Act, which criminalises any behaviour, usually speech or writing, deemed to promote rebellion against the state. The proposed changes include increasing jail terms from three to up to seven years on conviction, and up to 20 years if convicted of sedition and causing bodily harm or damage to property. The proposed amendments could also disallow bail.

In recent months, the Sedition Act has been used to arbitrarily arrest government critics including opposition leaders, human rights activists, journalists and human rights lawyers.

Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia Researcher at Amnesty International, said:

“Indefinite detention without trial is contrary to human rights law and it will not stop terrorism.

“Abandoning people to rot in a cell for years on end without a judicial process and proof that they have committed a crime is just like aimlessly stabbing in the dark.

“Malaysia must immediately repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Sedition Act and release all those who have been detained under it only for expressing their opinions peacefully.”

 

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