The UN Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) said today it was concerned by the entry into force in Malaysia of the National Security Council (NSC) Act which gives the prime minister sweeping security powers and could restrict civil liberties.
The Act, which comes into effect on 1 August, establishes a National Security Council to handle matters related to national security and will be headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Through the Act, the prime minister will have the power to declare, upon the advice of the NSC, a “security area”, defined as being a location “seriously disturbed or threatened by any person, matter or thing which causes or is likely to cause serious harm to the people of Malaysia, or serious harm to the territories, economy, national key infrastructure of Malaysia or any other interest of Malaysia”.
The declaration is valid for up to six months, and can be renewed an infinite number of times.
Forces operating in a “security area” will be given sweeping powers, including the capability to arrest and search persons, enter and search premises, and seize property without a warrant. Furthermore, they will be allowed to use force against persons, including force amounting to death, as they deem reasonable and necessary in the circumstances “to preserve national security”.
Moreover, the Act grants immunity to members of security forces and personnel of other government entities for their acts in any “security area”.
“These provisions run counter to the requirement to investigate wrongdoing and hold institutions and their personnel accountable in the case of human rights violations,” said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR’s acting regional representative in Bangkok. “We are gravely concerned that the immunity provisions in the Act may encourage human rights violations.”
Meillan expressed concern that the Act could also be used to impose unjust restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly. “We call on the government to revise the Act to bring it in line with international human rights norms and standards. Furthermore, we encourage the Government to allow for an open and transparent consultation process on the provisions in the Act with all relevant stakeholders,” he said.
The National Security Council Bill 2015 was presented in Parliament on 1 December 2015. It was passed by the Lower House on 3 December 2015 and the Upper House on 22 December 2015.