Press Statement

The Prevention of Terrorism Act will only lead to abuse of power and injustice

30 March 2015

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 tabled in Parliament today that provided for wide and arbitrary powers of arrest and detention by the police and detention without trial by the Prevention of Terrorism Board.

While not doubting the serious extremist and militant threats in Malaysia, we urge the government to recognize the serious impact such laws like the Emergency Ordinance and the Internal Security Act (ISA) have had on the fundamental rights of a person to a fair trial and due process. It is essential that every imprisonment or detention of a person be done in accordance to internationally accepted standards – through a lawful process of investigation, a charge, a fair trial and a conviction before a court of law.

While the safety and security of Malaysia must be a paramount concern, the answer will not be found in the reintroduction of oppressive and out-dated preventive laws like the ISA that provide for wide and arbitrary powers to detain suspects for up to two years, renewable indefinitely, and without recourse to due process and a fair trial.

The limited habeas corpus avenue to challenge the detention for procedural compliance is certainly unsatisfactory and only provides a notional judicial safeguard when in practical terms, it is extremely difficult, if not almost impossible to be successful as the substance of the detention cannot be challenged.

Instead of providing short cuts, the government should strengthen the police to enforce existing laws properly including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Penal Code which are already among the most wide ranging in the world. The police should be provided with adequate resources, support and training to be a modern first world police force that rely on effective, innovative and modern investigation methods rather than preventive laws which can only lead to abuse of power and injustice.

The authorities should refocus the Special Branch and other internal security apparatus to target genuine security threats like extremism and militancy rather than being misused to suppress legitimate dissent and opposition as seen in the on-going sedition frenzy and #KitaLawan crackdown.

We call upon the authorities to observe international policing norms and to exercise their powers through a lawful process and supported by investigation and evidence that must later stand in a court of law, not a secretive and unaccountable committee like the Prevention of Terrorism Board.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

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