Hamza Kashgari’s deportation a serious rights violation

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Aliran strongly condemns the recent deportation of Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari as a serious and inexcusable violation of human rights.

In allowing the deportation of the 23-year-old writer to the custody of Saudi Arabian authorities, despite his claims that he feared threats to his life and intended to seek asylum in New Zealand, the Malaysian government has indicated that it will ignore any human rights or humanitarian considerations relating to asylum seekers in favour of any formal or informal agreement to extradite any foreign national on a government black list.

This action, in compliance with an apparently unofficial and dubious agreement (AFP, 12 February 2012) with the Saudi government, reveals a disgraceful, subservient willingness of the Malaysian government to do the bidding of a foreign government without question, to keep in that government’s favour.

Such actions not only reflect badly on Malaysia as a member of the UN Human Rights Council but serves to bring down the prestige of our country in the eyes of the international community. This also justifies the fears of human rights and refugee advocates that Malaysia has no intention to observe, promote or protect the dignity and rights of any asylum seeker or refugee, notwithstanding all the impressive pledges the government has made publicly, nationally and internationally.

The crime of which Hamza Kashgari (Mohamad Najeeb A Kashgari) is charged is one rather incomprehensible to those outside the borders of Saudi Arabia and something many Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia, see as forgivable and probably forgettable.

Hamza Kashgari allegedly offended Saudi clerics and Muslim society by openly expressing his spiritual emotions in a one-to-one conversation with Prophet Mohammad s.a.w. on the anniversary of his birth that he posted on Twitter. In this imaginary conversation, he is alleged to have told the Prophet there were things he liked about him and things he did not (theSun, 13 February 2012). But these were not the only words in the young writer’s posting that appeared to attract the alleged fury of 30000 readers in less than 24 hours. Kashgari, however, subsequently deleted this seemingly inflammatory posting and apologised for the tweets saying he repented for the faux pas.

Whilst Aliran recognises the Saudi Arabian government’s right to put Hamza Kashgari on trial, we urge the government to ensure the fairness of this trial for justice to be done. We also hope that there will be recognition and acceptance of this young writer’s apology and that forgiveness and mercy be shown to one so young and talented, who still has much to offer to his country and the world at large. We urge the Saudi Arabian government to act in the true spirit of Islam that witnesses to the justice and mercy of God and His Prophet.

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However, Aliran condemns the complicity of the Malaysian government in violating Kashgari’s human right to seek asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The authorities kept him incommunicado, denied access to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to assess his asylum claim, deceived his lawyers and attempted to deliberately hide his deportation by apparently omitting to record it (Human Rights Watch, 13 February 2012).

Aliran also regards the Malaysian government’s complicity in repressing Hamza Kashgari’s human right to freedom of expression under Article 19 UDHR as reprehensible and against the just principles of Islam and international human rights law (Islamic Renaissance Front, Malaysiakini, 13 February 2012).

We call on the Malaysian government to vacate its seat on the UN Human Rights Council for allowing human rights violations in this country to continue unabated and for justifying these violations on obviously unsubstantiated and spurious grounds.

Aliran supports and reiterates the calls by national and international human rights organisations for the immediate release of Hamza Kashgari to freely exercise his right to make a claim for political asylum in a country of his choice, according to customary international law i.e. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is obligatory for all members of the United Nations, including Malaysia.

Aliran Executive Committee
15 February 2012

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