Home Civil Society Voices 2013 Civil Society Voices Ongoing harassment against human rights group Komas

Ongoing harassment against human rights group Komas

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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders has condemned the ongoing harassment of Komas members following a film screening about the Sri Lankan civil war.


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Malaysia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing harassment against the human rights NGO Komas, after it organised a private screening of the documentary film called “No Fire Zone, the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” on allegations of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the civil war in 2009.

According to the information received, on 16 July 2013, late afternoon, Tan Jo Hann, a member of the Board of Directors of Komas, received a fax notice from the Home Ministry (KDN) Film Censorship Control and Enforcement Office in Kuala Lumpur, requiring him to come to their office at 9.30am on 18 July 2013 to record his statement on the above-mentioned issue. After consulting his legal counsel, they proposed another date to which KDN agreed. Tan Jo Hann will now go to the KDN office on 22 July 2013 at 10.00am, along with his legal counsel.

Earlier, in the morning, at 11.28am, Tan Jo Hann had received a telephone call from Akilah binti Bakri who identified herself as an enforcement officer from the KDN, informing him that they required his presence to record his statement at their office in Kuala Lumpur. Akilah added that the telephone call was the first step to inform Tan Jo Hann after which a written notice would be faxed to KOMAS office.

Tan Jo Hann asked why was it necessary for them to issue a notice to record his statement when he was actually present during the process when KDN and the police arrested three Komas staff members on 3 July 2013 after the screening of the film “No Fire Zone” in the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (see background information). He further reminded her that on the night of the arrest his statement was not recorded. Akilah replied that they now see it necessary to record his statement.

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The Observatory condemns the ongoing harassment of Komas members and reiterates its call on the Malaysian authorities to put an end immediately to the judicial harassment against Tan Jo Hann, all Komas members as well as against all human rights defenders and organisations operating in the country.

Background information

On the evening of 3 July 2013, Komas, together with the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Rights Committee (KLSCAH CRC), organised a private screening of “No Fire Zone” directed by British director Callum Macrae. At about 8.30pm, about 30 minutes after the start of the screening, about 30 officials of the KDN, immigration officials and the police entered the Chinese Assembly Hall and requested to check the film. The organisers negotiated with them to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening was over.

However, after the screening, the said officials insisted on checking the identity cards of all participants before they left the venue. The KDN requested a copy of the film, which was provided by the organisers in soft copy. They also ordered the organisers – Anna Har, a member of Komas board of directors; Arul Prakkash, Komas executive director; Lena Hendry, Komas programme officer – to go to the Dang Wangi police station. The three asked whether they were being arrested, to which the officers replied no. However, during their interrogation, they were informed that they were placed under arrest. They were questioned for almost three hours by the investigating team from the KDN.

At about 2.00am, the three Komas representatives were finally released on police bail after their statement was recorded. According to the information received, they should find out if they will be charged with any offences in 30 days. Reportedly, they were arrested upon the basis of Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act – which says no one should screen any film or related publicity materials that have not been approved by the Censorship Board.

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On 1 July 2013, Lena Hendry had received a call from the Censorship Board of the Ministry of Home Affairs, who asked the organisers to stop the screening because the film had not gone under censorship. She had replied that the screening was private and upon invitation only.

Furthermore, there were also strong attempts by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia to stop the screening. They faxed a letter to the KLSCAH asking them not to screen the documentary. Although they were invited to the screening they did not show up.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Malaysia, urging them to:

i. Ensure in all circumstances that KOMAS and its members as well as all human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

– its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as

– its Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

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iii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Malaysia.


· Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister, Prime Minister’s Office Malaysia, Main Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Fax: + 60 3 8888 3444, Email: [email protected]

· Mr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Blok D1 & D2, Kompleks D, Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan, 62546 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Fax: +60 3 8889 1613 /8889 1610, Email: [email protected]

· Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Tingkat 11, Menara TH Perdana, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Fax: +60 3 2612 5620; Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

· H.E. Mr. Mazlan Muhammad, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in Geneva, International Centre Cointrin (ICC), Bloc H (1st floor), Route de Pré-Bois 20, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 710 75 01. Email: [email protected]

· Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels, 414 A avenue de Tervueren, 1150 Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 50 49. Email: [email protected]

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Malaysia in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Malaysia.


Geneva-Paris, 18 July 2013

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply. E-mail: [email protected]

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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