The recent statement of the Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar trying to justify the indefinite detention without trial of Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on the grounds of averting possible economic sanctions on Malaysia is dubious and misleading, says Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh. B S A Tahir, a Sri Lankan, was arrested on June 2004 for allegedly involved in an illicit nuclear weapons network.
While there are obligations for state parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other related United Nations (UN) resolutions to prevent nuclear proliferation, it would be surprising to assert that these obligations justify or legitimise detention without trial such as that under the ISA.
On the contrary, human rights being the universal values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights obliges all nations to uphold human rights, including while countering terrorism. To amplify the importance of this principle, a Special Rapporteur on Promoting and Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism is even appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
The rule of law in international law requires evidence, and evidence can only be established in an open and fair trial. The ISA lacks an open and fair trial, let alone the evidence for a conviction beyond reasonable doubt of a detainee. The pale assertion of Syed Hamid Albar that he is satisfied with the detention based on information from the police can hardly withstand any test of international law.
The international concerns on the case of B S A Tahir will not go away easily, especially when the police investigation itself revealed that Tahir was the middlemen for Scomi Precise Engineering to get the manufacturing contract of a centrifuge component for the use in Libya’s uranium enrichment programme.
Scomi is a company controlled by the son of the Prime Minister. It has denied wrongdoing, stating that it was under the impression that the production was for petroleum and gas (plants) intended for Dubai.
If the Malaysian government is genuinely concerned about complying with the international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the right way to do this is to get to the bottom of the matter, investigate B S A Tahir’s network and convict him in an open and fair trial with concrete evidence of his nuclear weapons activities.
Otherwise, the Malaysian government runs the risks of misleading the international community and covering up untold mystery with an ISA detention.
Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh,
Abolish ISA Movement (GMI)
12 May 2008