Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the government’s announcement that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) will not be abolished but amended.
Those in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had previously condemned Sosma and described it as oppressive and tyrannical, and in this spirit, the Prime Minister had in July 2018 announced that it would be repealed.
Sosma is a procedural law that excludes fundamental safeguards found in the Criminal Procedure Code, Evidence Act and other laws.
During the trial process, Sosma acts unfairly against accused persons. Evidence that is normally inadmissible in a normal criminal trial is admissible in a Sosma trial including evidence obtained by oppression, torture or even fabrication as the ‘evidence’ tendered will normally be admissible no matter how it was obtained.
Further, the accused will not be able to challenge or cross-examine most of the evidence admitted under Sosma as it allows for a protected witness to give evidence in anonymity, thus contravening the basic standards of a fair trial.
In short, a trial under Sosma is fundamentally flawed as it allows for secrecy and questionable evidence against accused persons which they cannot challenge.
Sosma allows for a show trial that will almost inevitably lead to a conviction. This makes a mockery of the rule of law and our criminal justice system. Sosma falls far short of international standards for a fair trial, which is a fundamental right that must be accorded to anyone facing a criminal charge.
This backpedalling under the blanket excuse of “national security” and “terrorism” was similarly voiced by the previous Barisan Nasional government – and the current government surely needs no reminder of how Sosma was abused in the past including to target dissidents and the then opposition. Oppressive laws cannot magically transform into just and acceptable laws simply because PH is now in power.
While national security and terrorism are legitimate concerns for any government, a balance cannot be struck while oppressive laws like Sosma – which promotes torture, oppression and other unlawful means to secure convictions at all cost – are in place. This is too high of a price to pay for Malaysia Baru, which vows to uphold justice and human rights.
We urge the government to repeal Sosma and other oppressive laws. Malaysia cannot call itself a proper democracy while undemocratic and draconian laws remain in our statute books. We urge the government to honour its promise and abolish Sosma without delay.
Melissa Sasidaran is director of Lawyers for Liberty.