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Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up 17 (12/06/2020)

  1. COAC: THE LOGGERS ARE BACK

#OrangAsli

Since the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) on 10 June 2020, logging activities in at least two Orang Asli areas have resumed

In Kampung Sungai Papan, Kedah, loggers have started preparing the road to their concession area. This was the same site where the Temiars set up a blockade a year ago. Several of them were arrested and detained. The Menteri Besar called for a halt of the logging in August 2019, but it only lasted temporarily. On the Lojing-Gua Musang road, Kelantan, bulldozers were also coming in to log, with the purpose of planting musang king durians.

2. SPECIAL STIMULUS PACKAGE FOR THE ORANG ASLI 

#OrangAsli

Senator Manolan Mohamad suggested that the government should implement an economic stimulus package tailored for the Orang Asli (OA), many of whom have been severely affected by the pandemic. 

He cited the US and Canada as countries which have issued special economic packages for their indigenous peoples. For instance, the Canadian government’s targeted economic stimulus package for indigenous businesses has been a lifeline for many.

Senator Manolan further called for the government to develop the long-neglected infrastructure in OA villages, and to promote cooperation between Felcra, Risda, and Jakoa to advance the OA’s economic wellbeing.

3. RESTRICTION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ONGOING

#FreedomofSpeech #FreedomofExpression

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and 39 CSOs have issued a joint statement strongly condemning the use of repressive laws – such as s.233 CMA, s.504 and s.505 Penal Code, the Sedition Act 1948, and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 – to silent dissent and opposing views. 

Some examples over the past two weeks:

i. The AG filed an application to cite Malaysiakini for contempt over readers’ comments;

ii. Hannah Yeoh for questioning the fate of the National Strategic Plan to Address the Causes of Underage Marriage under her successor Siti Zailah on Twitter;

iii. Syed Saddiq for expressing disappointment with PM Muhyiddin Yassin for working with “kleptocrats” in an interview with Al Jazeera; and

iv. Siti Kasim for suggesting a ban on tahfiz schools in response to PAS calling for the suspension of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.

Check out CIJ’s Facebook for a non-exhaustive list of cases restricting free speech, all of which have occurred since the change of government in March this year.

4. WAO: ANTI-STALKING LAWS NEEDED URGENTLY

Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) urged for anti-stalking laws to be passed in the next Parliament session to address the rise in gender-based cyberviolence during COVID-19 pandemic.

According to UN Women, the global  increase in internet usage by 50% – 70% during the pandemic has coincided with a rise of cyberviolence, whether in the form of unwanted communications, sex trolling, threats of violence, or sexual images sent or distributed without consent. Recipients of this form of violence are often women.

The anti-stalking law would address both offline and online stalking, including various forms of gender-based cyberviolence like harassment, spying, and doxing. Survivors of cyberviolence would have a path to protection and redress.

5. COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN LEGAL WORK PLACE

The Malaysian Bar is deeply concerned over complaints of sexual harassment in the legal workplace, recognising the very nature of it would mean there may be more cases than are made known.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir affirmed, despite the existing provisions in the Employment Act 1955 and the Penal Code, there is a lot more that can be done. For instance, to include sexual harassment in section 509 of the Penal Code, and as a defined ‘misconduct’ in the Legal Profession Bill.

The latter move would mean that lawyers would also face disciplinary action for allegations of misconduct or sexual harassment. They could be liable to punishments, including fines or be struck off the roll.

6. RISING CONCERNS OVER DEATHS IN CUSTODY

#DeathinCustody #PolicePowers

Death in police custody: EDICT have raised concerns over the Jinjang police’s failure to properly identify an individual who had died in their custody on 31st May 2020. The police initially announced that the deceased’s name was Dhan Bahadur, however the Nepal embassy told the FMT that Bahadur was still alive in Nepal after verification. EDICT stated there were many suspicious issues during the investigation of the deceased whose identity is currently unknown. 

Death in immigration custody: On 12th June 2020 an Indian tourist, Zeawdeen Kadar Masdan, died in the Immigration Department’s detention after contracting covid-19. SUHAKAM is currently investigating the case, and have questioned the Immigration Department’s decision to arrest the victim for an expired visa when he was unable to extend it during the lockdown.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

1. US SUPREME COURT BACKS LGBT WORKERS’ PROTECTION

In a 6-3 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that employers who fire workers for being gay or transgender are breaking the country’s civil rights law.

Lawyers for the employers had argued that the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had not intended it to apply to cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity. The Trump administration sided with that argument.

However, the Court said the federal law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, should be understood to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. US SANCTIONS ICC OVER AFGHAN WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that blocks the assets of International Criminal Court (ICC) employees. This order was signed after the ICC began investigating whether US forces had committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC stated that these sanctions are an “unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law”, and that “[a]n attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice”.

The war crimes investigation followed a 2016 ICC report which found that there was reasonable basis to believe that US forces had committed acts of torture at secret detention sites operated by the CIA.

3. KOSOVO PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES

The Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) issued a statement alleging that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and others “are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders”, torture, and enforced disappearences.

This statement follows the SPO’s decision on 24th April 2020 to file a 10-count indictment which allegedly involves hundreds of victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities, as well as political opponents. Although it is only an accusation, the indictment is “the result of a length investigation and reflects the SPO’s determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Mr Thaci has denied any wrongdoing. A pre-trial judge has six months to decide if the court will issue charges.

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