Stop harassment of human rights defenders; don

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The frequent incidences of criminal acts, including robberies and rape cases, has reached alarming proportions and many seem to be living in fear. The police force seems to be ineffective in curbing crime.The Johor Baru police appear intent on curbing the people’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble and voice their dissatisfaction at the performance of public service bodies such as the police. 

 

This was seen during a peaceful demonstration by local residents outside the Johor Menteri Besar’s residence on 17 June. Two human rights defenders who were distributing leaflets were arrested, subsequently released on police bail and reportedly told to report at the magistrate’s court next week. According to a news report, one of them claimed that police had also raided his house without a warrant and seized his personal belongings, including a computer.

The leaflets had called for the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). Leafleting is not an illegal activity and the peaceful demonstration was allowed to run its course to the end. It is ridiculous that the two Suaram activists, Nyam Kee Han and See Siew Mun, should be arrested merely for distributing leaflets as if their actions threatened the security of the state of Johor and the welfare of its people. On the other hand, the police don’t seem to be as efficient and swift in arresting real criminals who are a danger to society.

The remand of the activists, the search without warrant, and their continued detention hours after the expiry of the remand order cannot be accepted as regular or legal procedure under the Criminal Procedure Code and is contrary to the rule of law. No crime seems to have been committed by the activists and no charge has been brought against them. The Johor Baru police seemed to be on a ‘fishing expedition’ to find fault with Suaram and to harass its members, and the two arrests appear to be a abuse of police powers.

This is a step backwards in the police and government’s attitude towards public claims to their Constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Such heavy-handed police tactics indicate a resurgence of the official intolerance and repression of the democratic process that characterised the Mahathir administration. There are also echoes of Operation Lalang.

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It is ironical that a campaign for the implementation of the IPCMC – a recommendation made by no less than a a Royal Commission and which has received public and government support – should prove so offensive to the Johor police authorities.

The actions of the Johor police also seem to run counter to IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan’s efforts to improve the image of the police force in a recent public relations campaign. Public confidence in the role of the police as guardians of law and order is bound to plummet.

In support of democracy, justice and the freedom of Malaysians to exercise their constitutional rights, Aliran calls for all conditions tied to the activists’ release to be dropped. Aliran urges the IGP to intervene and uphold law, order, and justice whenever police powers are abused or citizens’ constitutional and human rights violated. We also urge the government and the IGP to hold the Johor Baru police accountable for their actions in this case and to ensure that they direct their efforts at real criminals. .

Aliran Executive Committee.

23 June 2007

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