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Malaysia: Open Letter to the Prime MinisterWilliam Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador
Stop Arrests and Harassment on Those who Exercise Their Constitutional and Internationally-Recognized Right to Freedom of Expression
(LONDON) - Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
27 February 2015
Malaysia: Stop Arrests and Harassment on Those who Exercise Their Constitutional and Internationally-Recognised Right to Freedom of Expression
Mr. Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned human rights organisations and individuals, write to you to register our grave concern over the continued crackdown on freedom of expression in Malaysia, including the latest arrests and investigations against those who criticised or commented on the Federal Court’s decision to uphold the conviction of Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charges earlier this month.
Since May 2014, more than 40 individuals have been arrested under the Sedition Act and the Penal Code for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Over 70 arrests have been made since May 2013.
We are alarmed by your government’s continued abuse of the Sedition Act, exemplified by the following recent cases:
In addition to these, your government’s use of the Penal Code to supress the right to freedom of expression, as demonstrated in the most recent following cases, is also a matter of great concern:
The continued arrests, detention, investigations and charges appear to be a concerted effort to intimidate Malaysians from exercising their right to freedom of expression, a right enshrined under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and a fundamental right under international human rights law.
More precisely, these efforts to curb free speech appear to be targeted specifically to criticisms against the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
We thus urge your government to immediately bring an end to the clampdown on freedom of expression, including by ensuring that the police immediately ceases its arrests, investigations, and all forms of harassment against individuals who hold dissenting opinions from that of your administration, including those who expressly criticise the BN government.
We further strongly urge your government repeal all laws that impose unreasonable restrictions and that have been repeatedly abused to place disproportionate curbs on the right to freedom of expression, including the colonial era Sedition Act 1948, a piece of legislation that was enacted by the colonial rulers to suppress freedom of expression, including calls for independence.
We wish to bring your attention to the numerous and repeated calls from both the international community and from within the country for the repeal of the Sedition Act.
Among those making such calls is the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), an institution established by legislation and mandated by law to, among other things, make recommendations relating to human rights to the government.
SUHAKAM has most recently, through several public statements throughout 2014, unequivocally called for your government to repeal the Sedition Act. We urge you to heed the recommendations made, including by SUHAKAM, and honour the pledge you have repeatedly made since 2012 to repeal the Act. We are of the view that failure to do so, and the continued use of repressive legislation and heavy handed actions by the police to suppress the right to freedom of expression in an attempt to intimidate the Malaysian public, will not only severely damage the worsening international reputation of Malaysia as a democratic country, but also heighten the groundswell of discontent among the Malaysian people domestically.
1. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Khalid Abu Bakar
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
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