UPDATE (MALAYSIA) : ISA from AliraKesedaran Negara (ALIRAN) (National Consciousness Movement) 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-21-2003

Dear Friends

We are forwarding highlights from Aliran Monthly, Vol 23: Issue 4 (http://www.aliran.com).

Might Has Overthrown Right

Human Rights regression in Asia

Oral Intervention by Premesh Chandran

The 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Item 9: Human Rights Violation In Any Part Of The World

Date: 3 April 2003 

Madam Chairperson,

I speak on behalf of Aliran Kesedaran Negara from Malaysia. This statement is a result of consultations with a wide range of Asian NGOs, including Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development, Asian Human Rights Commission, Transnational Institute, South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Asian People’s Security Network, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, People’s Watch Tamil-nadu, Janasansadaya Sri Lanka, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Peace Camp, Philippines, Think Center, Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association and Japan Network on Human Rights in Malaysia.

We would like to draw the urgent attention of this Commission to the despicable trend of human rights regression in Asia post September 11 and the subsequent US-led “war on terror”.

The mandate given by the United Nations in the Security Council resolution 1377 for all states to adopt necessary legal instruments “to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation in combating terrorism”? has instead been exploited by Asian governments to impose new repressive legislation and security measures.
It is appalling that now there is a roll-back of civil libertie Previous safeguards ?fought hard with the tears, sweat and blood of those who cherish the rule of law and fundamental liberties ?are now all but lost. Our people are gripped with fear amidst intense propaganda and the spectre of terrorism ?real and imagined.

In India

Where does one begin? For starters, the world’s largest democracy ?India – passed the 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which set forth a broad definition of terrorism that included acts of violence or disruption of essential services carried out with “intent to threaten the unity and integrity of India or to strike terror in any part of the people.” It also made it a crime not to provide authorities with “information relating to any terrorist activity,” and allowed for up to three months of preventive detention without charge. This legislation was passed in spite of the National Human Rights Commission of India categorically stating that there was no need for such a law in India to handle terrorism.

In Indonesia

In Indonesia, the Anti Terrorism Bill was passed in March, adopting more or less the content of the Government Regulation in Lieu of Law (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang or Perpu) No. 1/2002 on the Eradication of Criminal Acts of Terrorism, and No. 2/2002 on the Eradication of Criminal Acts of Terrorism in Relation to the Bomb Explosion Incident in Bali. Perpu No1/2002 allows suspected terrorists to be arrested for seven days and detained for six months for questioning and prosecution. It also allows personal telephone conversation and mail surveillance and intelligence reports to be used as legal evidence. The sanctions under these Perpu are severe and include the death penalty or life imprisonment. There were six cases of arrest since the enactment of the Perpu, involving 10 victims, including fishermen who use bombing as a fishing method.

In Hong Kong

The Special Administration Governmentnt of Hong Kong is proposing various new bills under Article 23 of its Basic Law. These bills, ranging from theft of state secrets, investigation powers of the police on sedition, secession, subversion and treason, allows the government to wield wide rangi powers in curtailing the basic rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people.

While some States seek to impose new laws that are against the grain and essence of human rights in the wake of the campaign against terrorism, other existing regimes in Asia now have greater justification to maintain and expand their repressive national security laws.

In Malaysia and Singapore

A classic example is the Malaysian and Singapore governments. The Malaysian and Singapore governments have unabashedly maintained their Internal Security Act for the past four decades while arresting political opposition, civil society activists and the occasional alleged terrorists. We ask not that perpetrators of crimes be set free, but that they be charged and brought to trial in an open and fair court. How is justice served when citizens can be detained indefinitely without trial on unchallenged and spurious claims or allegations?

In Philippines

In the Philippines, the war against terrorism has been used as the pretext to stage an all-out war against groups seeking self-determination, namely the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. As a result, the Muslims living in Mindanao are subjected to unprecedented harassment, including torture, warrantless arrests and arbitrary detention, discrimination and displacement due to the war. The proposed anti-terrorism law prolongs detention without charges and also criminalizes legitimate dissent. Similarly, the Chinese government has labeled a Muslim Uigher organization as a terrorist group and used this as the pretext to criminalise Uighers in Xinjiang, who are fighting for self-determination, as terrorists and threats to the national security of China.

Honorable members of the Commission.

It is without question that we are at least of one mind here ?that we believe in the right to fair trial, freedom from torture and the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty in a court of law? These are precepts of a civilized democracy.

Monitor Anti-Terrorism Laws

Hence this Commission must, without further delay, institute a monitoring task force to look into anti-terrorism legislation and measures implemented by the States in order to ensure all those legislation and measures comply with international human rights standards.

We have also now seen how Might has overthrown Right in the ongoing carnage of Iraq. While we remain enraptured and dismayed by this complete dismissal of international human rights norms and practices, we must never forget that each and every day, these scenes are played out on the national level, where gross human rights violations and repression perpetrated by Asian governments are now sanctified and cloaked under the banner of ‘fighting terrorism?

In the past, many respected members of the Commission had stood with us, and with the people of Asia, against torture and arbitrary detention. Let us now show the people of Asia that the Commission will continue to uphold human rights with greater courage and conviction in this precarious moment in history.

When we raise our collective voices against the dismantling of the rule of law in the war against Iraq, let us also rise to the occasion to arrest the deterioration of the rule of law in respective States. There should be no room for hypocrisy in the haven of the Commission.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.


Right of Reply by Malaysia

ISA is Not Exercised Arbitrarily

Two statements made by the following non-governmental organizations:

I. Aliran Kesedaran Negara
II. Rural Reconstruction Nepal

Madam Chairperson,

1. My delegation is taking the floorn response to the statements made at our meeting yesterday afternoon by the representatives of two non-governmental organizations, namely Aliran Kesedaran Negara and Rural Reconstruction Nepal.
Madam chairperson,

2. The Internal Security Act (ISA) was enacted in1_9980 pursuant to Article 149 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. The Act ultimately aims at ensuring public order and protection of national security. It is a preventive law that is crucial for the continued peace and stability in our couny. The law provides for legitimate preventive detention during peacetime to enable the Malaysian authorities to carry out their responsibilities effectively in countering activities prejudicial to national security, economic livelihood and maintenance of essential services.

3. It is to be emphasised that the ISA has the necessary safeguards for legal recourse such as the concept of judicial review, wherein a detainee can apply for writ of habeas corpus. Further the detainee has a right to make representation to an Advisory Board, consistent with Article 151 of the Federal Constitution. Failing this, the detainee can appeal to His Majesty the King of Malaysia.

4. As regards the detention of those named by Rural Reconstruction Nepal, my delegation wishes to inform that their detention was in accordance with the existing laws of Malaysia and legal recourse is provided for as mentioned earlier.

5. Thus, although the ISA permits detention without trial, it must be emphasized that it can only be applied to matters pertaining to national security and public order. It is not exercised arbitrarily. Procedural and administrative requirements have to be met by relevant authorities for it to be utilized.

6. The ISA is applied on occasion only when peace and unity in the country is threatened. Peace and harmony are vital ingredients for the continued socio-economic development of the country. Malaysians are fortunate to enjoy a good level of human rights and could only be able to continue doing so if peace and order is maintained in the country. The Government of Malaysia has on many occasions explained itposition on human rights and stresses the importance of rights with responsibility.

I thank you Madam Chairperson. 


Right of Reply by Singapore

NGOs Like Aliran Merely Seek Publicity

Aliran, in its statement yesterday, alleged that Singapore government had “maintained its Internal Security Act for the past 4 decades while arresting political opposition, civil society activists and the occasional alleged terrorists”. The delegation of Singapore would like to rebut these baseless allegations.

While the Internal Security Act, a legacy from British colonial days, provides for detention without trial, it is meant for use against persons whose activities threaten the internal security of Singapore and to counter security threats such as racial and religious extremism, espionage, terrorism and subversion. The ISA is a critical legal instrument of last resort for us to counter such threats.

Contrary to what Aliran has alleged, the ISA is not used to suppress political opposition. The fact is that the ISA has not deterred opposition politicians and civil society activists from pursuing their political goals in Singapore. No opposition Member of Parliament in Singapore today has ever been detained under the ISA. For that matter, the ISA has never been used against anyone who operates by constitutional means. Action has only been taken against persons who participate in unlawful acts against public order and in subversive activities.

Aliran further argued that the “perpetrators of crimes” should be “charged and brought to trial in an open and fair court” and not to be “detained indefinitely without trial on unchallenged and spurious claims or allegations”.

Let us be clear. Whenever circumstances make it practicable, the Singapore government would prefer to prosecute an offender in court under the normal parameters of criminal laws. However, it is not always practical to do so. The very character of covert or clandestine activities sometimes makes disclosure of intelligence collected as evidence in an open trial a threat to the sources of intelligence. In cases involving racial and religious extremism, the trial itself would provide the accused with a public forum to inflame communal violence and conflict.

There are important safeguards built into the ISA to ensure that it is not abused. The period of detention without trial is not definite and is subject to important checks and balances. Under the Singapore Constitution, all detention cases have to be reviewed by an Advisory Board appointed by the President of Singapore. The detainee, who must be informed of the grounds of his detention in writing, has the right to make representations against his Order of Detention to the Advisory Board. He is also free to engage a lawyer for this purpose. The Advisory Board is further required to undertake a yearly review of continued detention and make further recommendations to the Minister for Home Affairs. No person shall be detained or further detained without the President’s concurrence.

Political stability and communal peace are not necessarily the natural order for a small, multi-racial and religious city-state like Singapore. The ISA is necessary so long as these vulnerabilities and threats remain relevant to our society’s stability and security. Like all laws and institutions of any sovereign and independent state, the ISA in Singapore has evolved in response to our own needs and circumstances.

Unfortunately, NGOs like Aliran which are not accountable for the safety and welfare of citizens find it convenient to use fora such as this to make baseless allegations against responsible governments. They merely seek publicity and attention for themselves.

Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN) (National Consciousness Movement)
103 Medan Penaga, 11600 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (0)4 658 5251 Fax: +60 (0)4 658 5197
e-mail: aliran@streamyx.com

ALIRAN is a reform movement dedicated to Justice, Freedom, and Solidarity
and is listed on the roster of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission

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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-21-2003
Countries :