On this year’s Malaysia Day, Prime Minister Najib Razak surprised the nation by announcing that the draconian Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) will be abolished in the hope of building a nation that “practices functional and inclusive democracy where peace and public order are safeguarded in line with the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights”.

The announcement stands in stark contrast to the recent arrest of 11 individuals in Tawau, Sabah who have been accused of terrorism under the ISA despite Prime Minister’s undertaking that the draconian ISA to be abolished.

It is important to be reminded that allegations made against individuals under the ISA remain mere allegations no matter how serious the nature of the said allegations is. These individuals have not been given any opportunity to challenge their detention or the allegations as the ISA allows detention without trial and it denies the basic right of the detainees to be tried in court.

Lawyers For Liberty is appalled to learn the recent arrest under the ISA which clearly manifests flagrant hypocrisy of the announcement made on the historic Malaysia Day by Prime Minister Najib Razak. This recent arrest shows that Najib’s administration continues to commit this legalized injustice despite sitting on the UN Human Rights Council where pledges have been made that Malaysia would uphold the highest standards of human rights before its re-election to the Council in 2010.

The ISA allows detention without trial where the police have the power to arrest a person up to 60 days and the Home Minister may authorize further detention up to 2 years and the period may be further extended indefinitely. This draconian piece of legislation goes against the fundamental principle of the right to trial which has been guaranteed under the Constitution and crystalized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is to be noted that there has been a trend to progressively reduce preventive detention powers and the ISA-like anti-terrorism laws do not exist in countries like the UK, Canada and Australia post 9/11.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its report dated 8 February 2011 stated that the ISA is no longer necessary to be in force in Malaysia since the Penal Code has been amended to make terrorism a specific offence.

Lawyers For Liberty condemns the continued use of preventive laws such as the ISA under the pretext of combatting terrorism as it is tantamount to a gross violation of human rights. There are sufficient laws in Malaysia to combat terrorism and it is the duty of the police to carry out effective investigation and intelligence work to fight terrorist activities which can be established under the existing laws and proved in court.

Lawyers For Liberty therefore demands the immediate release of all ISA detainees and the immediate abolition of the draconian ISA.

Lawyers For Liberty

17 November 2011