ISA review fails to tackle basic rights concerns

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Suaram and GMI have expressed their deepest disappointment on the government’s revelation on the amendments to the Internal Security Act.

An anti-ISA protest - Photo courtesy of reformisjalanan.blogspot.com

According to de facto law minister Nazri Aziz (Malay Mail, 30 November 2010), the most significant part of its planned amendments were the detention period of 60 days will be merely reduced to 30 days.

Suaram and GMI find that the reason given by Nazri on the reduction of the detention period fails to address the fundamental issue of detention without trial and impunity. The reduction is futile since the Act allows for detention of a person for another two years and be subjected to indefinite extension as per the discretion of the Minister. The proposal also fails to address the fact that the incommunicado detention of an arrested person without any access to the judiciary … breeds arbitrary investigation and torture as it allows for impunity and non accountability of the authorities to the oversight of the judiciary.

Both GMI and Suaram have gathered and published extensive documentary evidence of abuse and torture of ISA detainees. The authorities justify torture and abuse by saying that it is necessary for the successful completion of the investigation. In addition, detainees and their families are often subjected to pressure and psychological abuse.

We again express our serious concern over the government’s return to its old rhetoric of peace and stability to justify and legitimise human rights violations and ill treatment of human beings. We are of the position that the purported statement has no merit but is a mere excuse legitimising the government’s action to use the undemocratic law as a political tool.

The ISA has become a convenient political tool to clampdown on dissent whereby the Executive continues to enjoy permanent, unfettered discretion to determine, according to their subjective interpretation, that any activity and person is a potential threat to national security. The unjust law has also created a climate of impunity and abuse of power with arbitrary powers extended to the police to arrest, detain and torture any person without being subjected to any accountability or judicial check and balance. The ISA has often clearly contravened international humanitarian standards and religious principles of humane treatment.

As such the ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law. The ISA is also prejudicial to the development of human rights and democracy with its wider, intimidating effect on civil society; it has a marked influence on the level of political participation, democracy and accountability in Malaysia.

Suaram and GMI are of the view that all detention-without-trial laws are a gross human rights violation and go against the spirit of the Federal Constitution as well as contravene Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

We hereby demand that the government end the 50 years of the obnoxious ISA now!

Nalini E is Suaram coordinator and GMI secretariat member
1 December 2010

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