Increasing crackdown on freedom of assembly


FIDH expresses its deepest concern at the arrest this morning of 23 persons, including SUARAM Executive Director, Swee Seng Yap. They were part of a delegation of NGOs and political activists who wanted to submit a memorandum under the coalition BERSIH (a coalition of over 70 civil society groups and political parties asking for free and fair elections in Malaysia) to Parliament. They were arrested by the police. They were subsequently released without charge, but they are supposed to report back to the police station on 18 December.

This is the last episode of an increasing repressive climate threatening the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Malaysia. On 9 December, eight lawyers and activists were arrested while they were participating in a peaceful march in conjunction the Human Rights Day. Another lawyer was arrested the same day in front of the Malaysian Bar office.
A rally was organized by Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), a NGO defending the rights of the Indian minority in Malaysia, on 25 November 2007. It was violently repressed by the police, and turned violent. Approximately 136 persons were allegedly arrested, and subsequently released. However, 99 of them are currently being prosecuted either under the Police Act which stipulates the need to have a police permit to gather, or under the Penal Code, for rioting or for participating or joining in an unlawful assembly. 31 persons are also charged with attempting to murder a policeman during the rally. Many of them face prison sentences.
Last month, at least two government leaders have made statements warning that the government would use the Internal Security Act (ISA) against demonstrators in response to the HINDRAF rally. FIDH recalls that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers the ISA as contrary to international human rights law since it allows long term detention without trial.
Malaysia, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, committed to respect the highest standard of human rights protection. FIDH urges the Malaysian government to uphold its commitments, to put an immediate end to the continued crackdown on freedom of assembly, and to immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested.
*Press contact : Karine Appy + 33 1 43 55 25 18, [email protected] *
Karine Appy
Attache de presse
Press Officer
+33 1 43 55 14 12
+33 1 43 55 25 18
+33 6 68 42 93 47