Press Statement In Response To The Arrests Of Nine Individuals During An Assembly On 23 November 2008
On 23 November 2008, two assemblies were held. One, against the I.S.A. The other, to support it. The assembly supporting the I.S.A. apparently included a march from Wisma Sejarah to the Tun Razak police station.
Both assemblies were a manifestation of the right of citizens to make known their views in a peaceful manner. Both the assemblies represent the right to freedom of assembly that is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Both groups of people legitimately exercised these rights.
However, only one group was targeted for arrests, namely the anti-I.S.A. group. We are alarmed to note that nine people from the group were arrested.
Such heavy-handedness against ordinary citizens expressing their rights to free speech and assembly goes against respected democratic norms. Furthermore, the use of police force against only one group, namely the one that was against the I.S.A., is selective persecution.
The apparent clampdown on peaceful assemblies is a worrying trend particularly when it is the avowed position of the authorities that they respect human rights.
The intimidation of ordinary citizens in this manner must cease. We call upon the authorities to even-handedly protect and uphold the rights of all concerned citizens to assemble peaceably to express their opinions.
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
24 November 2008