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Editor Raja Petra Lamarudin on trial for sedition; minority rights activists still in prison; UN should call for repeal of the Internal Security Act, says Human Rights Watch

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of a 9 February 2009 Human Rights Watch press release:

Malaysia: UN Review Should Challenge Rights Record
End Preventative Detention, Investigate Abuses

(Geneva, February 9, 2009) - United Nations member states should raise concerns about arbitrary and preventive detention and abuses against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers at the upcoming review of Malaysia's human rights record, Human Rights Watch said today. Malaysia will undergo its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on February 11, 2009, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Under the process, the rights record of each member state will be reviewed once every four years.

"A long, hard look at Malaysia's performance on fundamental human rights, including its detention practices, is in order," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Countries should call Malaysia to account for failing to address abuses against migrants and refugees, and for its continuing use of preventative detention."

Under Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), anyone deemed to be a threat to national security can be detained indefinitely without charge or trial, violating international due process standards. In its submission for the human rights review, Malaysia characterizes the ISA as "essential to peace, stability, and security" and describes the procedures under which a detained person can challenge the detention.

But Malaysia's reliance on the ISA violates a number of international human rights standards, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention, the rights to due process and to a fair trial, and the rights to freedom of speech and expression. While an advisory board reviews all ISA detentions, its recommendations are not binding. The detainees have no avenues of redress as the courts are not permitted to review a case on its merits. Permitted appeals on procedural grounds routinely fail.

On September 12, 2008, the Malaysian government arrested two journalists and an opposition politician under the ISA. All have since been released. But one of the journalists, Raja Petra Lamarudin, founder and editor of Malaysia Today, Malaysia's most popular website, is now on trial for sedition. In December 2007, five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) were charged under ISA after the organization staged a demonstration to draw attention to education and economic policies that discriminate against Malaysia's Indian population. These five remain in detention.

"Malaysia uses the pretext of national security to invoke the ISA and lock up critics and political opponents indefinitely," Pearson said. "UN member states should challenge Malaysia to repeal the ISA, and either to charge or to free all those currently detained under its provisions."

For the complete text of the press release, see:

To read Human Rights Watch's submission to the UN Human Rights Council for the UPR of Malaysia, please visit:

Updates the Lamarudin (Kamaruddin) case:

Updates the HINDRAF activists' case:

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