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Thursday, March 05, 2009

ISA - Malaysia’s symbol of injustice and torture.

23rdFebruary 2009

Amnesty International Malaysia views with concern the statement made by Deputy IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar on 23.2.09 on the relevance of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). Amnesty regrets that the Deputy IGP being the guardian of public interest and rights had given blanket approval to the most draconian and unjust law in Malaysia. It does not reflect the aspiration of Malaysian public and are misleading. Public protests and critics on the ISA had risen to an unprecedented level, reemphasizing the concerns and arbitrariness of the ISA.

The Internal Security Act is an unjust law as it provides for an indefinite detention without trial purely at the pleasure of the police and the Home Minister. Previous arrests of Selangor State Exco YB Teresa Kwok, Blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Sin Chew Jit Poh journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and many others shows the potential for this unjust legislation to be used at any time against anyone without just grounds or reasons.

The ISA, through a series of amendments, has incrementally extended Executive powers, while stripping away the judicial safeguards designed to protect against their abuse. Now, once a person is detained under the ISA, he or she has no effective recourse to legal protection, nor any opportunity to establish their innocence of the accusations leveled
against them. As such the ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law.

The broad terms of the ISA also fails to provide any precise definition or criteria for determining which individuals pose a danger to state or public security and a judicial explanation of what should be termed as a real threat to the public and the security of the nation. The Executive has been given permanent, unfettered discretion to determine, according to their subjective interpretation, who, what and when a person or activity might pose a potential threat to national security or public order.

Amnesty International in the past has repeatedly called for the repeal of the ISA. For over twenty years the organisation has called for the immediate and unconditional release of scores of ISA detainees whom it considered to be prisoners of conscience held solely for the peaceful expression of their political or religious beliefs. It has called for those detained to be either granted a fair, speedy and open trial, or else released. The organisation
has also raised persistent serious concerns about patterns of grave ill-treatment, at times amounting to torture, of those detained under the law. The recent judgment in Malek Hussein’s case is a clear example of existence of torture and ill-treatment during the 60 days in-communicado period under police custody.

Amnesty International Malaysia views that ISA is irrelevant to address concerns of national security and highly prejudicial to development of human rights and democracy in Malaysia. We urge the government to reconsider Suhakam’s proposal for the ISA to be repealed and be replaced by a specific Anti-Terrorism Act as reported in its 2003 Report titled ‘’Review of the Internal Security Act 1960. Amnesty International also hereby note that since the arbitrary and unjust detention and its facilities of Guantanamo Bay is now coming to close, its now time for the ISA and Camp Kamunting being the other symbol of injustice and torture right at our home to be repealed and be shut down as well.

Nora Murat
Executive Director

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