On 23 March the government submitted a motion in Parliament to maintain the power to detain suspects without trial for up to 28 days under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
This motion was necessary, as the power to detain suspects without trial is due to expire on 31 July. The law requires the government of the day to get majority approval through a parliamentary motion every five years to extend such draconian powers. In the voting on the motion, 86 MPs voted against and 85 MPs voted for, with 49 MPs absent. The motion was defeated by a single vote.
Aliran fully supports the 86 MPs who voted against the motion. As an organisation that champions freedom, justice, human rights and due process, we are totally against any form of detention without trial.
Unfettered powers to detain suspects for any length of time can be easily abused, as we witnessed with the harsh – and thankfully, now repealed – Internal Security Act. Unfortunately, its successor legislation, Somsa, also allows long periods of detention, thus putting detainees at high risk of physical abuse or ill-treatment while in custody.
The detention of suspects for any criminal or suspected acts of terrorism should have judicial oversight to prevent abuse and to ensure proper checks and balances. All detainees should be allowed their day in court and should have access to legal representation and advice.
We urge the government to uphold human rights and democracy by not retabling the motion. We also urge all parliamentarians to always vote with their conscience and use their votes wisely to place the people’s interest first.
Aliran executive committee
25 March 2022