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ISA arrests In Brunei

What did they do that was so detrimental to Brunei’s national security?

by Andrew Aeria
Aliran Monthly 2004:6

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brunei (5K)
Brunei must respect international human rights conventions
In February this year, the Brunei government detained three more of its citizens under the Internal Security Act (ISA), bringing the total number of known ISA detainees in Brunei to 25.

According to the Internal Security Department (ISD), the three detainees are reported to be:
  • Haji Muslim bin Haji Awang Tengah, a former army intelligence officer holding the rank of Major;
  • Haji Abdul Radzak bin Haji Awang Damit, a businessman;
  • Noordin bin Haji Mohamed Noor, a former Police Special Branch officer.
Their supposed “crime” was “treason and for leaking government secrets on the Internet”. Reportedly, government secrets and sensitive information were posted by them on a local Internet website where the secrets were actively and systematically disseminated as “subversive propaganda” that was “detrimental to the country’s stability and security”.

Noordin was also accused of allegedly “selling classified documents to an unidentified foreign nation”.

We, however, have not been able to find out what exactly the detainees had posted on the net that was so detrimental to Brunei’s national security.

These February detentions come on top of the earlier detentions under the ISA of 16 other persons in late 2003 and early 2004 on “suspicion of subversion and forgery” in “an attempt to sabotage the economic stability of the country”. This group, consisting of 13 Bruneians, a permanent resident, a Malaysian and a Filipino, were allegedly involved in the distribution of more than B$700,000 (US$412,000) in forged Brunei currency.

The 13 Bruneians detained are Haji Sarbini bin Pehin Udana Khatib Haji Junit, 54; Haji Bakar bin Bali, 36; Ibrahim bin Timbang, 50; Razali bin Haji Kahan, 54; Haji Abdul Salam bin Dollah, 48; Sabli bin Tuming, 46; Ali bin Awang Abuk Bakar, 42; Omar bin Haji Untong, 39; Juni bin Haji Garip, 39; Ghani bin Tamin, 65; Julaihi bin Aliasim @ Yasim, 49; Suhaimi bin Haji Kamis, 43; and Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman bin Pengiran Haji Zainal, 63.

start_quote (1K) As in Malaysia and Singapore, the ISA in Brunei is a historical carry-over of Orwellian legislation under British colonial rule. end_quote (1K)
Also detained were a Permanent Resident and two foreign nationals, Macky Paraji Hunang, 34, from the Philippines; and Alawin bin Budiman, 34, a Malaysian national. The Brunei Permanent Resident was identified as Sofri bin Dahali, 36.

We are disturbed that, so far, there have been no reports about the fate of six other ISA detainees - allegedly Al-Arqam members - detained in September 2003 for “attempts to revive the group and for being in contact with the group’s former leader in Malaysia.”

Authoritarian government emboldened

I have no knowledge of any further report, if any, of the 25 ISA detainees have since been charged in a court of law or released. It is thus likely that they remain in detention, bereft of their rights to a fair trial under internationally recognised standards of justice.

As in Malaysia and Singapore, the ISA in Brunei is a historical carry-over of Orwellian legislation under British colonial rule. And like in Malaysia and Singapore, it effectively allows the Brunei government to detain its citizens indefinitely on the basis of the Home Minister’s directive alone. Such directives are never put to the test in an internationally recognised court of law and which hinge on the ludicrous notion that an authoritarian government always acts in the interests of its citizens.

To make matters worse, the post 9-11 rollback of basic human rights and fundamental liberties in the name of “the war on terrorism” and “national security” and the shameless disregard of international human rights conventions by the USA and the UK have emboldened many authoritarian governments in Southeast Asia and Sultanates like Brunei. They inclined to “ape authoritarian Western powers” and act arbitrarily without reference to international judicial and human rights conventions.

The Government of Brunei must respect international human rights conventions. It must either charge all the 25 ISA detainees in a court of law or release them immediately and unconditionally. For their part, Malaysia and the Philippines should request the Brunei government to either charge their respective nationals in a court of law or release them immediately.

Editors' note: Six of the Al-Arqam believers were released in early July 2004, after the time of writing.

US Supreme Court's decision lauded

Court upholds right to trial for Guantanamo Bay detainees

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (Abolish ISA Movement, GMI) welcomes and lauds the decision of the United State Supreme Court to finally grant court access to some 600 prisoners detained without trial at Guantanamo Bay. This decision — which effectively accords the right to trial, a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is a step in the right direction in respecting human rights principles and the rule of law.

Human rights all over the world have suffered serious setbacks after the 9/11 incident with the Bush administration having embarked on a global war against terrorism, characterized by severe erosion of civil liberties and the growing concentration of power in the hands of the Executive. Authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world have also joined the bandwagon and justified their repressive laws in the name of combating terrorism. GMI hopes the decision of the US Supreme Court, albeit late, will be a starting point in reversing this worrying global trend.

The US Supreme Court’s decision is very important as it goes to show that fundamental human rights such as the right to trial cannot be ignored in any way even under the circumstances of fighting terrorism, a principle which has been advocated by human rights groups worldwide.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the Malaysian government has gone on to justify detention without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) by citing that western democracies had also legislated laws providing for detention without trial such as the Patriot Act in the United States. Now that the US Supreme Court has ruled that the right to trial should be accorded to the prisoners, would the Malaysian government now follow suit and grant the more than 100 ISA detainees their right to trial?

GMI therefore strongly urges the Malaysian government to grant the ISA detainees immediate access to open court so that they can engage lawyers and defend themselves against any allegation made by the government. There should be no more excuses by the Malaysian government to delay this any longer when the US, which led the global campaign against terrorism, is now allowing court access to the alleged terrorists.

We also call on the government to abolish all laws that provide for detention without trial in the country, including the ISA, as they go against the very grain of justice and human rights.

Yap Swee Seng
Secretary, Abolish ISA Movement

30 June 2004

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