Arbitrary arrest, release on bail of three Komas staff members

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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemns the disruption of the private screening of the documentary “No Fire Zone” by the Home Ministry and the police.

no-fire-zone-screening

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Malaysia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the arbitrary arrest and subsequent release on bail of three staff members of the human rights NGO Komas, after organising a private screening of the documentary film called “No Fire Zone” on allegations of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the civil war in 2009.

According to the information received, on the evening of 3 July 2013, Komas, together with the KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC), organised a private screening of “No Fire Zone” directed by British Director Callum Macrae.

At about 8.30 pm, about 30 minutes after the start of the screening, about 30 officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN), immigration officials and the police entered the Chinese Assembly hall and requested to check the film. The organisers negotiated with them to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening is over.

However, after the screening, the said officials insisted on checking the identity cards of all participants before they left the venue. The KDN requested a copy of the film, which was provided by the organisers in soft copy. They also ordered the organisers – Anna Har, a member of Komas Board of Directors; Arul Prakkash, Komas Executive Director; and Lena Hendry, Komas Programme Officer – to go to the Dang Wangi Police Station.

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The three asked whether they were being arrested, to which the officers replied no. However, during their interrogation, they were informed that they were placed under arrest. They were questioned for almost three hours by the investigating team from the KDN.

At about 2.00am, the three Komas representatives were finally released on police bail after their statement was recorded. According to the information received, they should find out if they will be charged with any offences in 30 days. Reportedly, they were arrested upon the basis of Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act – which says no one should screen any film or related publicity materials that have not been approved by the Censorship Board.

On 1 July 2013, Lena Hendry had indeed received a call from the Censorship Board of the Ministry of Home Affairs, who had asked the organisers to stop the screening because the film had not gone under censorship. Yet, she had replied that the screening was private and upon invitation only.

Furthermore, there were also strong attempts by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia to stop the screening. They had faxed a letter to the KLSCAH to ask them not to screen the documentary. Although they were invited to the screening, they did not show up.

The Observatory condemns the disruption of the private screening of the documentary “No Fire Zone” by the Home Ministry and the police and the harassment of the organisers and audience. More generally, the Observatory reiterates its call on the Malaysian authorities to put an end immediately to the continuing harassment against all human rights defenders and organisations operating in the country.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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