Drop charges against Heidy Quah

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We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Heidy Quah, the co-founder of Refuge for The Refugees.

Heidy was charged recently under Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) for a June 2020 Facebook post in which she describes conditions in one of Malaysia’s immigration detention centres.

In this Facebook post, Heidy shared the experience of a woman who was detained at an immigration detention centre in 2018 with her newborn baby. Her writing also exposed allegedly horrific conditions in the immigration detention centres, including abuse, and unsafe and unhygienic conditions for women and children.

Her Facebook post echoed similar concerns over immigration detention centres by Suhakam and human rights organisations over many years. Despite this, Heidy received a barrage of hate comments and harassments, including threats to her safety.

A credible and accountable action by the government would have been to initiate an independent investigation on potential mismanagement, ill-treatment or abuse of power within and in relation to immigration detention centres. Instead, the authorities have chosen to pursue those who expose these wrongdoings or violations. On 7 July 2020, Heidy was summoned to Putrajaya Police headquarters for investigation and her phone was confiscated.

Laws such as Section 233 of the CMA must be repealed. They violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and a fundamental human right. The broad and vague wording of Section 233 opens room for abuse: it has been repeatedly and selectively enforced, often to silence criticism against the government.

In the past year, we have seen artists, activists and other human rights defenders harassed, persecuted and prosecuted for asking questions of public interest, be it torture and deaths in custody, corruption or the treatment of migrants and refugees.

Charging Heidy for a Facebook post a year after it was first shared also raises questions about the government’s intention and motivation against an activist whose organisation has been actively providing life-saving food and basic aid to communities that have little support to depend on.

The information in Heidy’s Facebook post is validated in Suhakam’s annual reports. In 2018, Suhakam described conditions in immigration detention centres as “cramped, unsanitary, poorly maintained, and lacking in basic facilities such as clean water and food.” During visits to immigration depots in 2018, Suhakam raised myriad concerns, including poor hygiene and sanitary conditions, poor access to medical treatment, inappropriate and unsafe conditions for new mothers and their babies, and lack of, or insufficient provision of sanitary pads to women.

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Suhakam has continued to consistently document extremely poor conditions in immigration detention centres; these conditions continue to pose serious risks to the physical health and wellbeing of women, men and children, especially during the Covid pandemic. Instead of addressing these through meaningful reforms, the government has chosen to silence those who raise concerns about the conditions in immigration detention centres.

The alleged mistreatment and abuse of power in immigration detention centres, as documented in various reports, is inhumane and against international norms and standards. Allegations of mistreatment, abuse and harm within immigration detention centres have been documented in various reports over decades. Yet, the government has chosen repeatedly to punish whistleblowers, instead of working with urgency to comply with fundamental human rights standards and norms.

We seek to remind the government that it has a duty to protect the basic human rights of all peoples within Malaysia, including the right to free expression and the right to be free from violence — a foundational obligation at all times, but especially now as it is vying for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

In this regard, we demand that the government:

  • Drop all charges against Heidy Quah for exercising her constitutional right to freedom of expression
  • Initiate an independent and transparent inquiry into possible mismanagement, ill-treatment or abuse of power in all immigration detention centres and ensure findings are shared with the public
  • Stop all forms of intimidation and threats against human rights defenders and whistleblowers for exercising their rights and publishing their opinions
  • Enter into a moratorium on the use of Section 233 of CMA until it is reviewed and repealed
  • Stop the arbitrary arrests and immigration detention of refugees and migrants, and ensure independent monitoring of all immigration detention centres
  • Fulfil its international human rights obligations, including in implementing the concluding observations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
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The current prosecution against Heidy Quah is unacceptable. Telling the truth should not be a crime. Letting harm happen, especially to the vulnerable, is the real violence.

The full list of endorsements:

Endorsed by
1. 111 Initiative
2. Advocates for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (Anak)
3. Agora Society Malaysia
4. Al-Hasan Volunteer Network
5. Al-Ikhlas Hope Society
6. Aliran
7. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
8. Altsean-Burma
9. Amnesty International Malaysia
10. Asia Community Service
11. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
12. Asylum Access Malaysia
13. Beyond Borders Malaysia
14. Carefugees
15. Caremongering Malaysia
16. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
17. Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) at Universiti Malaya
18. Challenger Malaysia
19. Childline Foundation
20. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged)
21. Civicus
22. Demokrat Kebangsaan
23. Dewan Muda Malaysia
24. End CSEC Network Malaysia
25. Family Frontiers Malaysia
26. Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, Malaysia (FRHAM)
27. Freedom Film Network
28. Gerak (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia)
29. Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm)
30. Hope For Pakistani Refugees
31. International Detention Coalition
32. Justice For Sisters
33. Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation
34. Klinik Amal Muhajir
35. KongsiKL
36. Kryss Network
37. Little Steps Charity Organisation
38. Majlis Kebajikan Kanak-Kanak Malaysia
39. Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (Maju)
40. Misi: Solidariti
41. Monsters Among Us: Youth Advocates
42. Nesa
43. New Student Movement Alliance of Malaysia (Nesa)
44. North South Initiative
45. Our Student Headspace Movement
46. Our True Colors (OTC)
47. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
48. Persatuan Pemangkin Pendidikan Selangor (MYER Movement)
49. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham)
50. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
51. Pertubuhan Kebajikan READ
52. Prison Fellowship Malaysia Sabah
53. Project MK
54. Projek #BangsaMalaysia
55. Projek Wawasan Rakyat (POWR)
56. ReformArtsi
57. Refugee Emergency Fund (REF)
58. Rimbun Dahan
59. Rohingya Education Development Society
60. Save Rivers
61. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
62. Selangor Anti-Human Trafficking Council
63. Siring Siring Production
64. Sisters In Islam (SIS)
65. Student Led Actions Towards Evidence Based Policies (Sled)
66. Study Hub Asia Sdn Bhd
67. Suaram
68. Tenaganita
69. The Instant Café Theatre Company
70. The Oi! Community
71. Tiny Gold Hearts Project (TGHP)
72. Toy Libraries Malaysia
73. Umany
74. Undi18
75. Undi Sarawak
76. Women For Refugees (WFR)
77. Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
78. World Vision Malaysia
79. Yayasan Chow Kit
80. Ypolitics
81. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

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Individuals
1. Aizat Hazlee
2. Amirah Rasyidah binti Azhar
3. Amirul Ikman Azman
4. Andi Suraidah
5. Andrew Khoo
6. Asher Mulroney
7. Aslam Abd Jalil
8. Azra Banu
9. Celine Lim
10. Charles Mak
11. Damon Goh Yiyang
12. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Consultant Paediatrician
13. Devaruban Samalam Ruban
14. Dolly Tan
15. Dr. Rusaslina Idrus
16. Elisa Shafiqah binti Shahrilnizam
17. Florence Mah
18. Francis Ong
19. Gloria Bon
20. Gloria Tan
21. Harbans Kaur
22. Irene Wan
23. Jemima Chua
24. Jessica Tan
25. Joseph Paul
26. Juliana bt Jamaludin
27. Kalaivani
28. Kalavathy
29. Kasthuri Krishnan
30. Keerthana Sandrasegaran
31. Kenneth Cheng
32. Kieran Li Nair
33. Ku Jie Yee
34. Lan Lee
35. Lee Kok Hwee
36. Lim Ee Chiew
37. Lim Jeen Siew
38. Mangleswary Subramaniam
39. Mariammah Subramaniam
40. Meenakshi Raman
41. Melody Woon
42. Meyassa Hussain
43. Michele Rozells
44. Michelle Lai
45. Nadine Faisal
46. Ng Lai Thin
47. Ngo Sheau Shi
48. Nur Sakeenah Omar
49. Ong Rui Yu
50. Pet Ng
51. Ramesh A/L Raghavji Devraj
52. Salina Hussein
53. Scott J Wong
54. See Eugene
55. Shida
56. Shireen Sudhakaran
57. Siti Aishah
58. Suriani Kempe
59. Sydney Goh
60. Theresa Symons
61. Timothy Tan
62. Willa Mowe
63. Wong Mei Mei
64. Wong Woan Yiing
65. Yap Sook Yee
66. Yeoh Soo Han
67. Zhariff Afandi

– The Malay Mail

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