Monday, July 26, 2010

50 years is more than enough: Abolish the ISA and other detention without trial and outdated security laws


Press Release

50 years is more than enough: Abolish the ISA and other detention without trial and outdated security laws

1 August 2010 marks the 50th Anniversary of the coming into force of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). ISA allows for power to detain a person without trial and contravenes the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

On 19 July 2010 the Bar Council submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs calling for the abolition of ISA and other laws that allow for detention without trial, namely the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985. The memorandum also calls for the Malaysian Government to abolish the Restricted Residence Act 1933, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 and Banishment Act 1959.

The Bar Council’s memorandum draws attention to the archaic nature of these laws. It highlights how laws that allow for detention without trial offend the fundamental principles of human rights provided for within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and subsequent international conventions. It further draws comparisons with anti-terrorism legislation in other jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and USA, all of which provide for comprehensive protection of the security of their respective nations without foregoing safeguards to individual liberties and protection of basic human rights. This has been achieved through a combination of automatic sunset clauses, strict judicial oversight and supervision with secrecy provisions and right to counsel. Malaysian laws must provide no less protection and safeguards.

The Bar Council memorandum points out that Malaysia’s own enhanced counter-terrorism provisions within the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, couple with present immigration and anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing legislation, provide our law enforcement agencies with sufficient powers to confront the challenges posed by such criminal activity, and to subject a person so suspected to prosecution within the due process of the law. The power to detain without trial and to restrict free movement is wholly unnecessary and only leads to lackadaisical investigations, and misuse and abuse of the law.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian Government to respect and uphold the human rights of its people. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2010-2013, Malaysia has committed herself to maintaining the highest standards of human rights. This can only be achieved by removing all laws contravening basic human rights principles, such as ISA and other legislation that provide for detention without trial and restrictions in the free movement of peoples within our borders. 50 years of living under ISA (and longer under some of the other legislation) is more than enough. The time to free Malaysians from such unjust and unfair laws is now.

Ragunath Kesavan
President
Malaysian Bar

26 July 2010

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