UN says Malaysia needs to amend 'draconian laws'

Its use has been justified on the grounds of maintaining national security although many of its high-profile victims have been opposition politicians.

UN says Malaysia needs to amend 'draconian laws'

Malaysia needs to repeal or amend draconian laws that allow imprisonment without trial and have been used against opposition politicians, journalists and bloggers, a U.N. body said on Friday.

The U.N. working group was invited by the government and has been in Malaysia for two weeks to look into arbitrary detentions. It gave a critical assessment on four preventive laws including the Internal Security Act (ISA).

"These preventive laws are exclusively administrative and do not allow intervention by the judiciary," the group's chairman, Malick Sow, told reporters. "It is a classic case of arbitary detention."

The ISA, which dates back to British colonial rule, permits detention without trial with detainees usually held incommunicado and rarely charged in court.

Its use has been justified on the grounds of maintaining national security although many of its high-profile victims have been opposition politicians.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who now leads Malaysia's opposition, was imprisoned under the ISA when he was the leader of a Muslim youth movement.

He is currently on trial on sodomy charges in what he says is a repeat of a politically motivated prosecution that saw him dismissed from office in 1998, put on trial and imprisoned.

The government had pledged to review the ISA before Prime Minister Najib Razak took office in April last year but no changes have taken place yet.

The ISA and other laws are used against people suspected of criminal activity and against "terror" suspects.

"Safer in prisons"

Sow said the group privately interviewed detainees held under preventive laws and found no complaints about treatment by guards in prisons and detention centres.

However, the group found these detainees were likely to be tortured or mistreated in order to obtain confessions or evidence in police detention.

"It is not necessarily physical violence but also the external conditions and the withholding of food. There were few who said any particular tool was used to beat them but it was more to do with punching and kicking," Sow said.

"They prefer prisons than police stations. They feel safer in prisons."

The group will present a full report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March next year and will follow up again two years after the report is presented.


Reuters

Last Mod: 18 Haziran 2010, 13:09
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