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.