MALAYSIA: Peaceful Assembly Bill serious regression of the right to peaceful assembly 

The Malaysian government rushed through the Peaceful Assembly Bill at the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives, the lower house) on 29 November 2011. Instead of providing safeguards to the right to peaceful assembly, the bill poses harsher restrictions on the organization and participation of peaceful assembly than existing laws of Malaysia. In particular, the bill prohibits street protests, which is defined in the bill as “open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes.” The right to peaceful protest is a key component of the right to peaceful assembly, as street protest is a form of assembly in procession. The prohibition of street protests will seriously violate the right to peaceful assembly and infringe the freedom of expression of the people in Malaysia.

The Peaceful Assembly Bill also forbids a person below the age of 21 years to organize an assembly, and a child below the age of 15 years to participate in an assembly. These provisions seem to be an attempt to prevent the younger generation from expressing their views and participating in public affairs. This is a serious violation of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Moreover, protesters will be liable for fines of up to 20,000 Ringgit (USD 6,300) for taking part in assemblies that violate the bill.

In September, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced plans to scrap several draconian laws, such as the Internal Security Act. While no concrete steps have been taken to fulfill such a pledge, the passing of the assembly bill into law will be a serious regression and violation of the Malaysian people’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the Malaysian government to withdraw the draft Peaceful Assembly Bill immediately, and enact laws that ensure the right to peaceful assembly conforming to international human rights standards.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-185-2011
Countries : Malaysia,
Issues : Freedom of assembly,