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Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up 18 (10/07/2020)

1. DEATHS IN DETENTION

DEATH IN PRISON

On 2 July 2020,  V. Mugilarasu, aged 35, died while being held at Sungai Buloh Prison for a drug offence. Mugilarasu is said to have collapsed in his prison cell after complaining of chest pains at around 6pm.

The Prison Department stated that Mugilarasu died from a heart attack, whereas his family claimed that the deceased’s face and body showed signs of injuries.

Contrary to section 329(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, EDICT stated that the police failed to immediately inform the Selangor state coroner of Mugilarasu’s death.

2. DEATHS IN DETENTION (cont.)

UPDATE: DEATHS IN POLICE CUSTODY IN JUNE

Within the same month, there were two deaths in police custody in the Kuala Lumpur police district. The first was the death of an alleged Nepali in the Jinjang lockup, and the second was a Malaysian man who died in the Dang Wangi lockup.

As of 1 July 2020, the police has released little to no information about the two deceased men, from their identity, to the police’s investigation process.

CALLS FOR REFORM
In light of these recent deaths in detention, EDICT has called upon the Inspector General of Police to establish a Standard Operating Procedure that covers deaths and abuse in detention, and the Bar Council has renewed its calls for an independent external body to investigate such fatalities.

3. INCREASE IN S. 233 POLICE INVESTIGATIONS

MALAYSIA OPENS PROBE INTO AL JAZEERA’S REPORT ON MIGRANT ARRESTS

Malaysia police opened an investigation into the documentary “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” by news broadcaster Al Jazeera on the country’s arrests of undocumented migrants

The documentary sparked an immediate online backlash; while the government argued that the report was inaccurate, misleading and unfair. 

The report was further questioned by Dr Kenneth who has been working in Malaysia Agro Exposition Park (MAEPS) Serdang. He posted on Facebook commenting that the immigrants are being treated fairly and well with sufficient medical treatment and free food.

The CIJ has released a joint statement calling for investigations to be dropped and an independent inquiry into possible mismanagement by State apparatus and officials in handling the migrant raids. 

4. INCREASE IN S. 233 POLICE INVESTIGATIONS (cont.)

RETIREE FINED RM2,000 FOR INSULTING THE HEALTH MINISTER 

A retiree was fined RM2,000 under s.233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 by the Sessions Court for posting an insulting message against the Health Minister on Facebook. To reflect the severity of the sentence, the court ordered him to serve a month’s imprisonment if he failed to pay the fine.

The offence under Section 233(1)(a) CMA is punishable by a maximum fine of RM50,000, or up to a years’ jail, or both, if convicted; and also a further fine of RM1,000 for each day the offence is repeated after conviction.’

5. INCREASE IN S. 233 POLICE INVESTIGATIONS (cont.)

‘REBIRTH’ BOOK BANNED OVER STATE CREST

‘Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, And Hope in New Malaysia’ which featured articles from political analysts and journalists as well as reports on the 2018 general election, has been banned by the Home Ministry. 

The publisher, Gerakbudaya, was raided and roughly one third of the 1000 printed books were seized. Authorities’ attention was drawn after at least 32 police reports were lodged over the book’s controversial cover, which featured an image resembling the national coat of arms.

The investigation was carried out under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and the Communications and Multimedia Act


INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM
The Human Rights Watch has called for the government to stop treating criticism as a crime, and to “recognize that everyone has a right to criticize their government without fear of investigation or prosecution.

6. STATELESS E-SPORTS ATHLETE FILED JUDICIAL REVIEW TO GAIN CITIZENSHIP

Muhammad Aimanwas, stateless e-sports athlete, was born in Malaysia and legally adopted by Malaysian parents at the age of two.

After a long battle to gain citizenship, he decided to file a judicial review claim after his second citizenship application in 2017 received no updates.

The application is pursuant to Article 15A of the Federal Constitution – which empowers the government to grant citizenship for those under the age of 21 under special circumstances.

In the application, Aiman is seeking a declaration that he is a citizen by operation of law, a mandamus order to have a reissued birth certificate reflecting his citizenship, and the issuance of a citizen’s MyKad.

7. FEDERAL COURT TO HEAR CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MALAYSIAKINI ON 13 JULY 2020 

The Federal Court has set 13 July 2020 to hear the contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan over comments posted by readers on the website.

The judge found that a prima facie case was made out and that the respondents are presumed to have published the impugned comments by virtue of Section 114A of the Evidence Act. The presumption is a rebuttable one. 

The Court also unanimously found, looking at the nature of the impugned comments, that the Federal Court was the right forum to commence these proceedings.

This is the first time Malaysiakini is being cited for contempt of court in its 20-year-old history.

8. PARLIMEN DIGITAL REPS CONTACTED BY POLICE

Several representatives from the Parlimen Digital initiative have been contacted by the police after the first sitting on 4th July ended. They were allegedly contacted via social media and asked for personal details. The reasons for the police making such a move was unclear.

Parlimen Digital was the first-ever virtual parliamentary sitting in Malaysia. The organizers were three youth-led apolitical organisations: Challenger Malaysia, Undi18 and Liga Demokratik Malaysia. The initiative demonstrated that democracy could be digitized amidst the pandemic, and it gave a platform for Malaysian youths to voice their ideas and concerns.Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh commented that the move by the police was unnecessary: “there can be no justification in striking fear in the organisers and participants of the programme, particularly when it actually promotes intelligent discourse.”

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

9. FACEBOOK’S CIVIL RIGHTS-RECORD CRITICISED IN OWN REVIEW

The two-year-long review, commissioned by Facebook in May 2018,  reported that “Facebook’s approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal”. 

Although the report praises Facebook for its progress in certain areas, it exposes the company’s shortcomings and calls upon Facebook to “do everything in its power to prevent its tools and algorithms from driving people toward self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism”.

Coincidentally, the report was published during an ongoing advertising boycott of Facebook’s civil rights policy, with the nearly 1,000 advertisers calling for Facebook to do more about hate speech and discrimination.

10. HONG KONG: FIRST ARRESTS UNDER NEW SECURITY LAW

As of 1 July 2020, ten people were accused of violating the law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

The national law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces as crimes punishable by a minimum sentence of three years, with the maximum being life. 

It also says:

  • Damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism
  • A new security office will be established in Hong Kong, with Beijing’s own law enforcement personnel 
  • The law can be broken from abroad by non-residents, meaning foreigners could be arrested on arrival in Hong Kong

Beijing will also have power over the interpretation of the law, not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body. If there is a conflict of law between Hong Kong law and Beijing law, the latter supersedes. 

11. UK IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS

The UK is imposing sanctions, such as asset-freezing, on 49 people and organisations behind the most “notorious” human rights abuses of recent years. The list includes individuals responsible for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, and the Saudi Arabian officials involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

12. UN REPORT SAYS FLAGRANT WAR CRIMES COMMITTED IN IDLIB

On 7th July, the UN report, covering the period from November 2019 to June 2020, states that civilians have endured “unfathomable suffering” and that “a perfect storm is in the making” due to the combined crises of the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis faced by the war-torn country.

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