Human Rights Watch commends the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) for its incisive critique of conditions in Malaysia and urges Malaysia to promptly implement the recommendations of the WGAD.
Malaysia cannot present itself as a responsible member of the international community while continuing to refuse to ratify core UN treaties, including, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, as the WGAD has recommended.
It cannot continue to argue that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is widely acknowledged to be customary international law, is not legally binding unless it is consistent with Malaysia’s own constitution.
Rather it should respond positively to the WGAD’s recommendation that it take steps to “abrogate all norms that impede the independence of judges and magistrates, the impartiality of prosecutors, and the free exercise of the legal profession.” It should, the Working Group said, repeal, not amend, preventative detention laws, such as the Internal Security Act, which permit detention without fair trial and which limit access to legal counsel and family members.
In addition, it recommended that the government provide for a legal aid system for immigration detainees and that it upgrade the appalling conditions in immigration detention centres. It also expressed concern, as have nongovernmental organisations, about deaths during police arrest and to suspects in police custody. Human Rights Watch, taking that observation a step further, recommends institutionalisation of a fully independent body to investigate and adjudicate police abuse.