Amnesty International's entry for Malaysia in its report for 2007 reveals that the human rights situation in the country leaves much to be desired.
Head of state: Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin
Head of government: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not ratified
The year ended without the government fulfilling its pledge to establish an independent police complaints commission. At least 80 men accused of links to Islamist extremist groups were held without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be constrained by restrictive laws. People suspected of being irregular migrants or asylum-seekers were harassed and detained in harsh conditions pending deportation. Hundreds of people, mostly alleged irregular migrants, were imprisoned or caned after unfair trials. Death sentences continued to be passed and four executions were carried out.
Non-governmental organizations continued to press the government to create an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). In 2005 a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police had recommended a wide range of reforms, including the establishment of an IPCMC by May 2006. Draft legislation to establish an IPCMC remained under consideration by the Attorney General at the end of the year. A range of other reform recommendations, including repeal or review of laws allowing for detention without trial or requiring police permits for public assemblies, were not implemented.
There were continued reports of excessive use of force by police officers during peaceful demonstrations. In March and May police armed with shields violently dispersed a series of peaceful protests in Kuala Lumpur against fuel prices, with batons and water cannon. Several people were reported seriously injured and dozens arrested. All were subsequently released. There was still concern over the effectiveness of safeguards to ensure the safety and wellbeing of detainees in police custody. At least five people, including one woman, were reported to have died in custody during the year.
Detention without trial
The ISA, which allows for detention without trial for periods of up to two years, renewable indefinitely, continued to be applied and also used as a threat. At least 80 men accused of membership of or links to Islamist extremist groups remained in detention at the end of the year. At least 20 detention orders were renewed, and the reasons were not made public.
• In May, 11 people were arrested under the ISA in Sabah for alleged involvement in an Islamist group known as Darul Islam Sabah.
• In October, at least 17 alleged members of Jemaah Islamiyah and the Malaysia Militant Group (Kumpulan Militan Malaysia) were released, but remained under orders restricting their freedom of movement.
At least 700 criminal suspects remained in detention under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EO), which allows for indefinite detention without trial. Many were detained under the EO because the police did not have sufficient evidence to charge them. In October, the Federal Court ruled that the lawfulness of EO detentions by police could not be challenged in the courts once the Minister of Internal Security had issued a detention order.
Migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrant workers remained vulnerable to arrest, detention in poor conditions and deportation under the Immigration Act. Migrant workers were subjected to psychological and physical abuse by agencies and employers, and were often denied equal access to benefits and protections guaranteed to Malaysian workers, including maternity provisions, limited working hours and holidays.
Excessive use of force and ill-treatment were reported during repeated raids and mass arrests, mostly conducted by members of the volunteer civilian armed corps Rela (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia), of suspected irregular migrant workers. Hundreds were whipped after being found guilty of immigration offences.
• In February, the bodies of five migrant workers who allegedly fled a Rela raid were found in a lake in Selayang, near Kuala Lumpur. Witnesses reported that at least one body bore signs of ill-treatment.
Freedom of expression and association
There was continued criticism of the Printing Presses and Publication Act, which allows the authorities to refuse, revoke or suspend printing permits.
• During the year, two newspaper editors were forced to resign following their newspapers’ coverage of police abuses, and four newspapers were suspended after publishing drawings of the Prophet Muhammad first published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and judged offensive.
• In May, the opposition People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) protested at the refusal to grant a printing permit for the party’s official paper. Two opposition parties, the Malaysian Dayak Congress and the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia), were denied registration under the Societies Act.
Death penalty and corporal punishment
In March, the Malaysian Bar Council passed a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty and a moratorium on all executions.
Death sentences, however, continued to be passed during 2006, mostly as a mandatory punishment for certain drug-related offences. Four executions for armed treason were carried out. The authorities continued not to disclose regular statistics on capital punishment.
In May, Parliament passed a water privatisation bill, which also extended the death penalty to cover serious cases of water contamination.
Caning, a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, was also carried out.
AI country reports/visits
• Malaysia: Amnesty International’s campaign to stop torture and ill-treatment in the ‘war on terror’
(AI Index: ASA 28/003/2006)
Amnesty International delegates met government officials in March, and local civil society groups in June to discuss progress in the implementation of police reform.