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Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-Up 20 (07/08/2020)

1. AL JAZEERA, ASTRO, UNIFI TV RAIDED OVER MIGRANT DOCUMENTARY

The police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have raided Al Jazeera and seized two computers. Astro and Unifi TV were also raided; it is believed the two had broadcast Al Jazeera’s documentary.

On 3 July 2020, Al Jazeera aired Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown, which focused on the plight of undocumented migrants detained during raids in areas under tight coronavirus lockdowns. It sparked an online backlash, while the Malaysian government decried the report as inaccurate, misleading and unfair.Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) commented, “The government’s crackdown on migrants and refugees, as well as those who speak up in their defense, is clearly meant to silence and intimidate and should be condemned.

2. BANGLADESHI IN AL JAZEERA DOCUMENTARY TO BE DEPORTED ON MERDEKA DAY

Md Rayhan Kabir, the Bangladeshi national who was arrested on 24 July 2020 after appearing on an Al Jazeera documentary, will be deported back to his home country on Merdeka Day, pending the completion of the Attorney General’s review into the police’s investigation papers.

The Director-General of the Immigration Department stated that Mr Kabir’s visitor pass has been terminated and that he will be permanently blacklisted from entering Malaysia. This follows from the recent revocation of Mr Kabir’s work permit.Mr Kabir had appeared in the Al Jazeera documentary, Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown, where he accused the authorities of racism against undocumented migrants. Currently, the police are investigating Al Jazeera under the Sedition Act 1948 and other statutory provisions.

3. SUHAKAM CALLS FOR RELEASE OF FINDINGS ON WANG KELIAN TRAGEDY

On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, SUHAKAM urged the government to release the report and findings of the Royal Commission Inquiry (RCI) into the Wang Kelian tragedy, which involved human trafficking syndicates and subsequent obstruction of justice by enforcement authorities.

SUHAKAM reminded all that despite its illegality worldwide, human trafficking remains rampant because it is a lucrative trade; and pointed out Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 is the specific legislation to address human trafficking in Malaysia. 

SUHAKAM urged the government to focus on:

i. Identifying weaknesses (thereby strengthening) the Malaysian border enforcement infrastructure, 

ii. Intensifying efforts to prosecute traffickers and those abetting; 

iii. Providing all forms of necessary assistance including legal aid, humanitarian supplies, and access to basic services to victims.

4. JAKIM CONDEMNED FOR LODGING POLICE REPORT OVER LGBTQ CONVERSION THERAPY TWEETS 

Local advocacy groups have condemned the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) for reporting a local minority rights activist to the police over her tweets about its methods to “heal” the LGBTQ community.

The groups said JAKIM’s knee-jerk reaction to lodge a police report is a disproportionate response. “It sends a message… that we are not allowed to question governmental policies and programmes and aims to limit our freedom of expression and our right to information.”
The groups also said that the tweets were accurate and backed by citations accessible online that included published research and Parliament’s Hansard. Moreover, the tweet never implied participants of such programmes were forced attendees, albeit “we do… need a deeper understanding of what is meant by ‘voluntary participation’.

5. CITIZENSHIP CASE REQUIRES EVIDENCE ON BIOLOGICAL PARENTS’ NATIONALITY

In a High Court case, lawyer Raymond Mah argued that those born in Malaysia but had not become citizens of any other country within a year of their birth would be a Malaysian citizen under s.1(e) and s.2(3) of the Federal Constitution’s Second Schedule

Mah further argued that his client should not bear the burden to  approach 100 other countries to verify her nationality thereby proving her biological parents’ identity. He further argued that s.1(e) only involves jus soli (the right to citizenship by place of birth), not jus sanguini (right to citizenship by the parents’ nationality).


However, the opposing counsel argued s.1(e) requires proof for both jus soli and jus sanguini, hence the need to prove parents and lineage.

6. THREE FAMILY MEMBERS DETAINED FOR SUSPICION OF ABUSING INDONESIAN MAID

The police have detained three family members suspected of abusing their Indonesian maid.

“The victim was reportedly not paid her wages during the period she worked for her employer besides the maid was locked up in the house and forced to work every day. Her earlobes were also almost torn,” Perak Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief SAC Anuar Othman said.

He also said the suspects were remanded until Thursday and the maid was sent to a shelter pending further investigation.

The case is being investigated under s. 12 Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (ATIPSOM).

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

7. STUDENTS ARRESTED UNDER HONG KONG SECURITY LAW

In the first police operation to enforce Hong Kong’s new national security law, four students in Hong Kong, aged between 16 and 21, have been arrested on suspicion of “inciting secession”.

The students were former members of or had links to Studentlocalism, a pro-independence youth group. It was disbanded in June before the security law came into force.

Prominent rights activist Joshua Wong said the former leader of the group, Mr Chung, had been followed by police for several days. Joshua also said Mr Chung had been arrested for writing a Facebook post on “China’s nationalism” and alleged that the detainees’ phones had been hacked shortly after their arrest

Categories
Campaign 2019/2020

[#StayAtHome: Gone Too Soon: Deaths in Custody]

[#StayAtHome: Gone Too Soon: Deaths in Custody]

As the death of George Floyd continues to spark protests and conversations about police power, we reflect on the issue of deaths in police custody here in Malaysia. Are there issues of racism among our police? What has been the police’s reaction and procedure when a death occurs in their custody? Is accountability ensured, or evaded?

Join us for a discussion with Mr M. Visvanathan, human rights lawyer and founder of Eliminating Deaths And Abuse In Custody Together – EDICT, as we address the role of police accountability in ensuring the rule of law and democracy, the obstacles faced in protecting the rights of detainees, and the reform and action we can push for as young aspiring lawyers.

Details of the event are as follows:
Date: Saturday, 25 July 2020
Time: 9.00p.m. MYT/ 2.00p.m. UKT
Platform: Zoom/ Facebook Live

Register now at https://www.kpum.org/stayathome

Guest Speaker

Highlights from the #StayAtHome Webinar with Mr M. Visvanathan

We thank M. Visvanathan for spending his Saturday evening to share about his experience and insight on custodial death in Malaysia.

Link to the webinar is available here.

Categories
Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up (27/12/19) Indian Citizenship Law, Fake News, Refugee Clinic, Minimum Wages…

International news

1. Citizenship law in India

Activists of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti shout slogans during a protest against the government's Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati on November 22, 2019
Protest against CAA (AFP)

India’s parliament has passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 11 December 2019, and this has amended the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

CAA creates an expedited path to citizenship for migrants from three countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — who illegally entered India by 2014, provided they belong to six religions. The religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. Notably absent from the list: Islam, the religion practiced by about 200 million of India’s more than 1.3 billion people, according to The Washington Post.

The Indian government says the law is a humanitarian method to tackle the problems faced by the religious minorities in the three neighbouring countries. Such communities have faced difficulties in the above-mentioned countries, which are all Muslim-majority nations.

According to BBC news, opponents of the bill say the law is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. The constitution prohibits religious discrimination against its citizens, and guarantees all persons equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has criticised CAA which seems to be discriminatory against Muslims.

“I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state now is taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship… People are dying because of this law,” he said.

However, India rejected this remark and stated that it’s factually inaccurate.

 

Local news

1. Government will establish Malaysian Media Council

The Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia Eddin Syazlee Shith announced that the Cabinet has agreed in principle to establish the Malaysian Media Council. 

According to Free Malaysia Today, the Malaysian Media Council has been proposed as a self-regulatory body that can set high standards for the media community to help build and maintain public confidence in the industry and to act as an arbitration body between the people and the media for the benefit of all Malaysians. It also safeguards the welfare of media practitioners in the country. 

In another matter, Mr. Shith also warned against circulating inaccurate information on social media about the flood situation affecting Johor, Pahang and Melaka because that would cause unnecessary worry among the public. He advised to keep abreast with the news released by official government media such as Bernama and RTM.

Establishment of this particular council was promised in Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto in GE14. Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) welcomed this decision and Malaysia’s improved press freedom rankings but highlighted challenges that the media faced under the Harapan administration.

“Self-regulation based on a journalism code of ethics should be the catalyst towards a new media landscape in a new Malaysia,” said Geramm.

 

2. Malaysian students among Hong Kong international students facing fear and rebellion

At a recent Q&A session organised by local students involved in the protest movement for overseas HKU students, it is said that some international students were planning to leave Hong Kong. It is speculated that this is because the protest has lasted for too long. 

Malaysian student Celia Cheng’s (pseudonym) first semester in HK began with being tear-gassed outside parliament and ended with her evacuation from campus. She said she supported the cause and was curious about the protests, but did not tell her family about her participation,  because they see the protests as “useless” and support China as a strong economic power. Besides, she said if her family does not allow her to go back to Hong Kong, she might need to defer her studies. 

In fact, many exchange students were also called back by their home countries and institutions, while some students from mainland China at CUHK were evacuated in a police boat.

In an effort to help with the situation, Taiwan’s education ministry announced any students fleeing the HK protests could register with Taiwanese universities to continue their studies, according to Malay Mail.

 

3. First clinic in Malaysia to address the healthcare needs of refugees

On Dec 19, the Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD) humanitarian clinic was officially launched and it’s the first clinic specially for refugees in Malaysia. The clinic located in Ampang was launched by Qatar Charity (QC) and Yayasan Kebajikan Negara (YKN).

In a press conference speech, YKN CEO Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim hopes that with this clinic, it can prevent disease complications and avoid overcrowding at government hospitals. It also aims to effectively address potential public health problems such as disease outbreaks.

According to CodeBlue, in the next three years, another four clinics offering primary health care services to refugees will be opened in various locations in peninsular Malaysia. The project will be run by medical relief organisations — Mercy Malaysia, Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia, and Malaysian Relief Agency — with support from the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

There are over 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, with many more unregistered according to The Star.

This project is designed to reinforce UNHCR services by bringing healthcare to refugees who are unable to seek the care needed due to various circumstances such as being bedridden, poverty, lack of transportation and lack of knowledge.

 

4. Sarawak Union tells workers to file claim if employers do not provide free meals and housing

In light with the rise of minimum monthly wages to RM1,200 in major towns under 57 city and municipality councils in 2020, a union leader advised coffee shop workers to file claims for constructive dismissal if free meals and accommodation are to be stopped by their employers.

Sarawak Bank Employees Union (SBEU) chief executive officer Andrew Lo was responding to a statement made by the Kuching Coffeeshop and Restaurant Owners Association that their members will stop providing accommodation and meals for their workers, effective next year, following the increase in the minimum wage.

“Stopping existing accommodations and meals is to existing workers is a clear breach of contract… Those business that cannot afford to pay the minimum wage have no business to be in business and should close shop,” Lo further stated.

The Human Resources Ministry said the federal government had made a decision in increasing the minimum monthly wages on December 18 and this would take effect from January 1, 2020 for all employers.

“MOHR had said the minimum wage rate would continue to be reviewed to ensure it was in line with current needs and in line with the objective of achieving a minimum wage of RM1,500 a month in first five years of Pakatan Harapan’s administration,” as stated in Malay Mail.

An increase of minimum wages may be good news for employees in Malaysia but that doesn’t mean that their basic labour rights (as stated in their contracts) should be neglected. Balance should be struck between the employers especially those Small and Medium Enterprises and employees.

5. Government to submit child rights report to the United Nation next year

The Malaysia government is going to submit another report to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) committee in 2020. The last report was submitted 13 years ago.

Hannah Yeoh, the Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the ministry is completing the report’s final draft which also involves cooperation from other ministries.

According to The Malaysian Reserve, Malaysia is obligated to report to the UNCRC committee every five years as the government ratified the CRC in 1995. The CRC is an international human rights treaty which articulates the rights of children and is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.

Besides of the report, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM) will focus on increasing number of child protection officers from the current 280 to 1,500 next year to handle abused and abandoned children.

The ministry is also planning to establish a specialised children’s agency to enforce and roll out developmental plans for children.

Categories
Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up (13/12/19) Genocide hearings, death in custody, IPCMC Bill, and right to work for refugees…

Photograph: Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

International news

1. Aung San Suu Kyi in court as genocide hearings open in the ICJ

The Gambia’s application at the International Court of Justice against Myanmar, alleging violation of obligations under the Genocide Convention, has progressed to the stage of hearings. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi is leading the country to defend the charge.

According to OpinioJuris , the substance of allegations of genocide include denial of rights, hate propaganda, mass scale destruction of villages, the targeting of children, the widespread use of rape and sexual assault. It also details the denial of food and a policy of forced starvation, through displacement, confiscation of crops, as well as inability to access humanitarian aid.

The Gambia has asked that the continuing breach of the Genocide Convention obligations are remedied, that wrongful acts are ceased and that perpetrators are punished by a competent tribunal e.g. an international penal tribunal. In addition, The Gambia asked for the safe and dignified return of the Rohingya with full citizenship rights, and a guarantee of non-repetition.

Local news

1. Suaram: Little change to human rights record under Harapan

Speaking at the launch of its ‘Human Rights Report 2019’, Suaram Executive Director Sevan Doraisamy said civil and political rights continue to be an area of concern from the time of BN rule to the Harapan government.

Interestingly, Dr Kua Kia Soong’s speech at the aforementioned launch called for the government to declare a Climate Emergency. He stated that “[t]here is growing consensus among climate scientists that we have no more than 18 months to ensure that global emissions of carbon dioxide peak by 2020 to keep global temperatures within the safe limit. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5ºC this century, carbon emissions will have to be cut by 45% by 2030”.

Malaysia, along with other countries worldwide, is experiencing the tragic consequences of climate change. The recent floods in Kelantan have forced thousands of families to evacuate, and intense rains have caused landslides and roads to collapse.

Among the measures Dr Kua Kia Soong urged to implement immediately are: ban single-use plastics and the import of plastic waste immediately; make manufacturers commit to waste reduction targets and replace fossil fuels with clean renewable energy; no more highway projects through environmentally-sensitive areas; clean up all rivers especially water catchment areas; stop the building of mega dams such as Papar dam in Sabah which destroy the environment and the traditional land of our indigenous peoples; and, gazette all our forests and stop all logging of our rainforests for buildings, plantations and other infrastructure projects which are vital water catchment areas.

 2. Deaths in Police Custody

(1) Dharmendran’s wife awarded RM490k

Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim awarded RM440,200 in damages and an additional RM50,000 in costs to Marry, Dharmendran’s wife.

Dharmendran was found dead at the Kuala Lumpur police contingent headquarters on May 21, 2013. The post-mortem report conclusively stated that Dharmendran died from multiple blunt force trauma, including from having his ears stapled as a form of torture.

(2) Suaram’s 2019 Report – Police initiative needed for lasting solution to deaths in their custody

Suaram’s programme manager, Dobby Chew, has stated that there must be changes to the attitude of police with regards to accountability. This would ensure a lasting solution to deaths in police custody.

With respect to the example of a police station chief who had immediately contacted the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) for a joint investigation into a police custodial death, Chew stated “I think steps like those, we don’t need any legal amendments or policy amendments. You just need the police chief themselves willing to be accountable.”

3. Second reading of IPCMC Bill postponed to next year

It was announced that the second reading of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill would be postponed to next year.

Several civil society organizations, in a statement, said they hope the delay was not due to inordinate pressure against the Bill, especially since the police have expressed concerns over the commission having disciplinary powers over them. In response to this, the group pointed out that these powers will be exercised not by the Commission directly, but by separate disciplinary boards that will consist of commission members, a representative from the police force and a representative from the Police Force Commission.

The group also stated that the current EAIC does not have the power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the police, despite findings of misconduct. Thus, despite EAIC having found serious misconduct such as tampering with diary entries and making false police reports by police officers, there has not been any corresponding disciplinary action by the police.

Therefore, the IPCMC is necessary to replace the EAIC in efforts to enhance the integrity and capabilities of the police force and act as an independent monitoring body to receive complaints and conduct investigations into misconduct involving police personnel.

4. Enforced disappearance 

In May 2019, the government had set up a special task force to investigate the disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

The special task force had previously mentioned that their report would be submitted in December. However, SUHAKAM has stated that they have not yet received this report.

5. Right to work for refugees in Malaysia 

Tenaganita has written an open letter in anticipation of the government’s decision on the rights of refugees to legal employment. The following are the directions and action plans Tenaganita hopes the government will consider:

  • Implementing the recognition of refugees and their work rights through IMM13, as suggested by ReAct, a refugee-led advocacy campaign group;
  • Carrying out a thorough assessment for a more efficient implementation of the policy. Citing the failure of a pilot programme in 2017 for the employment of Rohingya refugees, Tenaganita highlights the importance of conducting preliminary research and community assessment to identify existing skills and capacities;
  • Granting work rights to all refugees instead of only to a few select groups;
  • Extending the refugee policy to other basic human rights including, but not limited to, education and health; and
  • To have a concrete government policy on this matter of the general rights of refugees in Malaysia.