Suspension of activist Lena Hendry’s trial

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Lena Hendry - Photograph:Haris Hassan/ fz.com

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) have received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Malaysia.

New information

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the suspension of that trial against the human rights defender Lena Hendry, Programme Coordinator of the human rights NGO Pusat Komas.

According to the information received, on 10 March 2015, the High Court of Malaysia ordered the suspension of the trial against Hendry, pending a decision of the Federal Court as to whether the Film Censorship Act 2002, under which she has been charged, is constitutional.

By doing so, the High Court disagreed with the April 2014 decision by the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court, which had ruled that the charges against Hendry were not in contradiction with Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution (see background information).

The Observatory welcomes the suspension of the trial against Lena Hendry and calls once again upon the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against her since she has been targeted solely for her legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights.

Background information

In the evening of 3 July 2013, Pusat 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.

About 30 minutes after the start of the screening, about 30 officials from the Home Affairs Ministry, immigration, and 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 was over.

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However, after the screening, 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.

They also ordered the organisers – Anna Har, a member of Komas Board of Directors, Arul Prakkash, Komas Executive Director, and Lena Hendry – to go to the Dang Wangi police station. 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 Home Affairs Ministry.

At about 2.00am, the three Komas representatives were finally released on police bail after their statement was recorded. Reportedly, they were arrested under Section 6 of the 2002 Film Censorship Act.

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

Furthermore, there were also attempts by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia to stop the screening. They faxed a letter to the KLSCAH asking them not to screen the documentary.

On 19 September 2013, the Home Ministry and Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) filed a charge against Lena Hendry under Section 6 of the 2002 Film Censorship Act, which says that no one should screen any film or related publicity materials that have not been approved by the Censorship Board. Judge Ashraf Razal Abdul Manan granted her bail of RM1,000.

Subsequently Lena Hendry’s lawyers filed an application before the High Court challenging the charges against Hendry under the 2002 Film Censorship Act, on the grounds that they violate the Federal Constitution.

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On 11 April 2014, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court dismissed Lena Hendry’s application after ruling that the charges imposed a restriction reasonable and proportional against free speech, in the interest of public security, order and morality and were not in contradiction with Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

If convicted, Hendry faces up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine between RM5,000 ringgit and RM30,000.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Malaysia, urging them to:

i. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Lena Hendry, particularly by immediately and unconditionally dropping all charges against her, as well as against all KOMAS members and all human rights defenders in Malaysia;

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that KOMAS and its members as well as all human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, 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”, as well as
– its Article 12.2, which provides that 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 his or her rights”;

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iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Malaysia.

1 Pusat KOMAS has existed since 1993 and it has been on the forefront of the advocacy for democracy & human rights in Malaysia through creative media. They have highlighted many human rights issues involving grassroots communities.

Addresses:

• Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister, Prime Minister’s Office Malaysia, Main Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Fax: + 60 3 8888 3444, Email: ppm@pmo.gov.my
• Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Blok D1 & D2, Kompleks D, Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan, 62546 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Fax: +60 3 8889 1613 /8889 1610, Email: webmaster@moha.gov.my
• Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Tingkat 11, Menara TH Perdana, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Fax: +60 3 2612 5620; Email: humanrights@suhakam.org.my;hasmyagam@suhakam.org.my
• H E Mr Mazlan Muhammad, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in Geneva, International Centre Cointrin (ICC), Bloc H (1st floor), Route de Pré-Bois 20, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 710 75 01. Email: malgeneva@kln.gov.my
• Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels, 414 A avenue de Tervueren, 1150 Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 50 49. Email: malbrussels@kln.gov.my

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Malaysia in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Malaysia.

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