Friday, September 5, 2014

World bodies: Sedition use 'clear crackdown'

9:44AM Sep 5, 2014
An international human rights watchdog said the government's use of the Sedition Act is "fostering a climate of repression in Malaysia".

"The use of the law - increasingly against individuals simply expressing political, religious and other views - is creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.

"Amnesty International (AI) believes the increasing use of the Sedition Act to suppress the views and opinions of opposition politicians and other critical voices, as well as ordinary individuals who are simply expressing their opinions on a range of issues, is fostering a climate of repression in Malaysia," said the international human rights group.

In a statement issued today from its Southeast Asia Desk in its head office in London, AI  reminded Malaysia that the Act was a legacy of the colonial British rulers "to stifle dissent and criminalise peaceful activists and opposition in the past".

Listing the victims of the dragnet from opposition members to netizens and even a Malaysiakini's journalist, AI noted, "These charges appear to be politically motivated."

It said the law contravenes international human rights law, and violates the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in addition to Malaysia's federal constitution.

The leading world human rights body noted that the prime minister has yet to fulfil his two-year-old promise to repeal the Act.

"Amnesty International calls on Prime Minister Najib Razak to deliver on his promise … and to drop all charges against those criminalised for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression," it said.

The call comes as the sedition dragnet appears to be progressing at full speed, with the court today finding former student activist Muhammad Safwan Anang guilty of sedition for a speech made last year.

Jurist group: Clear crackdown

Meanwhile the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) condemned the increased use of the Act saying it "seems like a clear crackdown against freedom of expression in Malaysia".

“Over the past few weeks there has been a marked increase in the number of sedition charges filed by authorities in what seems like a clear crackdown against freedom of expression in Malaysia,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s international legal adviser on Southeast Asia in a statement yesterday.

"Laws that criminalise free expression have no place in a modern Malaysia, and are incompatible with international human rights standards," said Gil.

"The Malaysian government should immediately drop these charges and get rid of this law."

She said the mechanisms of the Act are "grossly overbroad and inconsistent with basic rule of law and human rights principles" as it considers irrelevant the true intention of a person allegedly making seditious statements.

Citing the case of lawyer N Surendran's sedition charge among others, she said, “These lawyers were merely expressing their views publicly on the law.”

Gil said under principle 23 of the UN basic principles on the role of lawyers, they enjoy the right to freedom of expression and to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights.

~ Malaysiakini

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