Thursday, January 31, 2008

Malaysia: Court hears challenge to the arbitrary detention of five campaigners in favour of the rights of the Indian minority

Press Release

31 January 2008

Malaysia: Court hears challenge to the arbitrary detention of five campaigners in favour of the rights of the Indian minority

International mission of judicial observation

Geneva-Kuala Lumpur-Paris, January 31, 2008. This week, the High Court of Kuala Lumpur heard a legal challenge to the continued detention of five human rights defenders and leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), an NGO defending the rights of the Indian minority in Malaysia[1].

The five men, Messrs. P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabati Rao and T. Vasanthakumar, were arrested on December 13, 2007 under Malaysia’s notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), which grants the Minister of Internal Security, who is also the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the unfettered discretion to detain any person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia. The detentions followed peaceful rallies organised by HINDRAF and another coalition of civil society groups which were violently repressed.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), decries the ISA as contrary to fundamental rights such as the right to a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“The ISA is the epitome of a law that sanctions arbitrary detention”, said Ms. Laurie Berg, an Australian lawyer who observed this week’s hearings on the Observatory’s behalf. “These men have faced no charge, have been convicted of nothing. They are detained at the government’s pleasure and have the sole ‘mercy’ of challenging their detention on narrow technical grounds”. The use of the ISA in this case is all the more worrying since it has become a tool to silence peaceful human rights defenders on spurious security acts.

Furthermore, the Observatory and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) consider the detention of these five HINDRAF leaders as arbitrary insofar as several fundamental rights contained in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights such as the right to a fair trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty have not been observed.

At the end of this week’s hearing, the court said it would give its judgment on February 26, 2008. If the court dismisses the appeal, the HINDRAF advocates will join up to 70 others who are held in indefinite detention, on suspicion of terrorist offences. Several are facing their sixth year in prison under this law.

The Observatory and Suaram call on the Malaysian government to immediately release Messrs. P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabati Rao and T. Vasanthakumar in the absence of valid legal charges against them or, if such charges exist, to bring them before an independent and impartial tribunal, with due respect of the procedural guarantees prescribed by international human rights law. The Observatory and Suaram hope that the fundamental principles from international law will be taken into account by the Kuala Lumpur Court and demands, in consequence, the acquittal and subsequent release of the five HINDRAF leaders.

For further information, please contact:

- SURAM: Yap Swee Seng : +6 03 7784 3525

- OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39

- FIDH : Gaƫl Grilhot : + 33 1 43 55 25 18

[1] Hearings were held on January 24, 25 and 28, 2008.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS: MALAYSIA: Five activists are detained for 2 years without trial under the Internal Security Act


Forwarded Urgent Appeal: AHRC-FUA-001-2008

30 January 2008
MALAYSIA: Five activists are detained for 2 years without trial under the Internal Security Act

ISSUES: Internal security act; fair trial; freedom of expression & assembly

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal received from MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) regarding a case of five human rights activists who were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia on 12 December 2007. The ISA allows detention without trial. All are now being detained by virtue of a 2-year detention order made by I Datuk Seri Abdulah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister and Internal Security Minister of Malaysia.

If you have any further inquiry about the case, please feel free to contact Mr. Charles Hector whose contact details are provided below.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


Charles Hector
for and on behalf of MADPET


MALAYSIA: 5 Human Rights Activists detained under the Internal Security Act, which is a Detention Without Trial law

Dear friends,

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) writes to inform you that 5 human rights defenders and activist were arrested by the police on 13 December 2007 under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows detention without trial. Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan said the arrests, under Section 8(1) of the ISA, were made against the five for carrying out activities that threatened national security.

Those arrested are M Manoharan, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal advisers P Uthayakumar, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and T Vasantha Kumar.

The first 4 are lawyers, who have also been actively involved in human rights issues. It is learnt they were detained under Section 8 (1) of the ISA after Internal Security Minister Datuk Seri Abdulah Ahmad Badawi signed their detention order. The five were sent straight to the Kamunting detention centre in Taiping, Perak, to be detained for two years, without undergoing the usual 60-day investigation period.

This is most unusual because usually persons will be arrested and detained by the police, who can detain persons for not more than 60 days. Only after that if the Minister is "satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary" will the 2-year detention order be signed.

BACKGROUND: (Based on Malaysiakini and other media reports)

About 40,000 protesters took part in BERSIH's assembly, whose intention was to hand over a memorandum to the King. BERSIH is calling for electoral reform including a review of the electoral roll, curbs on postal voting, which they say is being abused, and equal access to state media for all competing parties. Police fired tear gas and used water cannons on the protesters. (BERSIH, a coalition of 70 political parties and NGOs). This was the Malaysia's biggest street protest in nearly a decade.

About 20,000 protesters demonstrated under the shadows of Kuala Lumpur's iconic Twin Towers after their efforts to petition the British High Commission was thwarted by the police with tear gas and chemical-laced water cannon. About 400 persons were arrested that day.

The protest is to support a US$14-trillion lawsuit by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) against Malaysia's former colonial power for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers and exploiting them for 150 years. The assembly today was for the purpose of submitting a memorandum was to petition Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen's counsel to argue the case on their behalf.

A series of arrests and charges began on 6 December, when 31 Hindraf supporters were charged with attempted murder, after a policeman suffered injuries, and have been refused bail. In addition, three leaders of Hindraf, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waya Moorthy, and Ganapathy Rao, have been charged under the Sedition Act for remarks made during a speech on 16 November, and with a letter posted on their website.

After the Bar Council succumbed to pressures and fears and called of its annual Human Rights Day walk, several lawyers in defiance call for concerned lawyers and members of the public to join them in their march from SOGO to the Central Market, and about 200 persons did join them for that 7.30 am march. The police stopped the march and arrested 8 persons (of which 5 were lawyers). Later that afternoon, the local authority tried removing banners placed around and in the Bar Council Building, to which the lawyers protested. The Human Rights Committee chairman was arrested for obstructions. All 9 were unreasonably detained overnight and brought to court to charge. The Attorney General personally came and asked that bail be denied. They now face charges of illegal assembly and disobeying police orders to disperse.

17 members of BERSIH who attempted to deliver a memorandum to Parliament were arrested.

What has been happening prior to the arrest and detention under the ISA?

The police have been targeting HINDRAF lawyers over the past few weeks. The crackdown started with the arrest of chairperson P Waythamoorthy, Uthayakumar and Ganabatirau on Nov 23. They were then charged with sedition in Klang.

On Tuesday (11 December 2007), Uthayakumar was again arrested and charged on another count of sedition in Kuala Lumpur. He was arrested once more on the same day and kept overnight in remand before being released yesterday without being charged.

Both Waythamoorthy and Ganabatirau were also re-arrested over the past week and released after being held for some hours.

Waythamoorthy, who is Uthayakumar's younger brother and also a lawyer, is currently in London on a mission to lobby for support from international groups.

Hindraf has come under the police radar after organising nationwide talks in which they are alleged to have made seditious speeches in relation to the marginalisation of the Indian Malaysian community.

Hindraf's rally in Kuala Lumpur attracted some 30,000 people. The police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Thirty-one of the protesters have been charged with attempted murder and causing mischief with some facing a third charge of illegal assembly.

The government has been threatening to use the ISA against Hindraf leaders for some weeks now.

Last week, the Inspector General of Police claimed that Hindraf was linked to terrorist groups and was active in fanning racial sentiments among the Indian community by stirring up their anger and arousing hatred against the government.

He added that the police had been monitoring the group - helmed by six prime movers comprising five lawyers and a senior executive of a private company - since July 28.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has for several weeks been threatening to invoke the draconian legislation against Hindraf, which authorities have accused of having links with Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers. The group denies the charges.

Earlier this week the premier alluded to the use of the ISA by saying that he considered public safety to be more important than public freedom.


Please call upon the Prime Minister for the immediate release of P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau, T Vasantha Kumar and all persons being detained under the Internal Security Act and other laws that allow for detention without trial.

Sample letter:

Dear Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,

We call for the immediate and unconditional release of M Manoharan, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal advisers P Uthayakumar, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau, T Vasantha Kumar and all others that are currently being detained under the Internal Security Act and/or other laws that allow detention without trial.

We believe that it is unjust to deprive a person of his right to a fair trial, and call for the repeal of the Internal Security Act and all other laws that allow detention without trial.

Yours sincerely,


Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Security,
Prime Minister's Office Malaysia,
Perdana Putra Building,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 Putrajaya,
Tel: +603 8888 6000
Fax: +603 8888 3444

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