While we strongly condemn the unprovoked aggression against Malaysia by the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu’s band of militants, we are nonetheless concerned with reports that at least 107 individuals have been arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (hereinafter known as SOSMA) – a security law that falls far short of international standards for fair trial especially Parts IV (Special Procedures Relating to Sensitive Information) and VII (Evidence) that cause the greatest concerns i.e. providing drastic departures from the current rules of evidence.
Although we understand the exigencies of SOSMA’s application, the authorities must nonetheless be mindful to exercise the extraordinary and wide-ranging powers with restraint and not indiscriminately.

We further urge the authorities to investigate the suspects with urgency and if there is adequate evidence, to appropriately charge these individuals for any offences under the law and vice versa, to release them if there is insufficient evidence especially those detained under the Immigration Act and National Registration Act (243 detainees).

Needless to say, standards of fair trial and legal representation cannot be compromised even for these detainees.

LFL therefore welcomes the Attorney-General’s invitation to the Bar Council and Sabah Law Association to provide legal representation to the individuals who have been arrested and/or charged. This reassures the possibility of a fair trial as legal representation is a necessary pre-condition. We applaud this positive development as usually in times of armed conflict, it is all too easy to neglect due process and standards of fair trial.

Lastly, although the charges against the eight Filipinos under section 121 for waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and other offences relating to terrorism seem appropriate in light of the seriousness of the offences, we are nonetheless concerned that the penalty for waging war carries the death penalty. We call upon the authorities to not impose the death penalty if they were found guilty but instead to impose life imprisonment which is also provided as penalty.

On World Day Against the Death Penalty last year, LFL released a statement which among others called for the abolishment of the death penalty as it has no place in any civilised society that values human rights, justice and mercy. Malaysia remains among an ever decreasing small minority of countries that still provide for the death penalty. A total of 140 states have abolished death penalty in law or practice – more than 70 per cent of the world’s countries.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty
20 March 2013