An international human rights NGO has called on the government to end its "politically-motivated prosecution" of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“Prosecuting Anwar for something that should never be considered a crime shows how far the government is prepared to go to remove a political opponent,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
“This drawn-out political theatre has long been exposed as an attempt by the government to take Malaysia’s most senior opposition leader out of political contention.
“Malaysian authorities should drop their case against Anwar or risk making a travesty of the country’s criminal justice system,” Robertson said in a statement today.
He argued "so-called sodomy laws, such as Article 377, contravene broadly-accepted international legal standards".
"The law should be replaced with a modern, gender-neutral rape law.”
Citing research by the Women’s Candidacy Initiative, Robertson pointed out that Article 377 of the Penal Code has been invoked only seven times since 1938, out of which four involved Anwar.
"The willingness of the government of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to use the law repeatedly against one high-profile political opponent highlights the danger posed by this law as long as it remains on the books," Robertson said.
Anwar was acquitted on his second sodomy charge, but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal after the government appealed.
The PKR de facto leader is now appealing the latest decision before the Federal Court, and has claimed that his legal team is being targeted with the Sedition Act to impede his defence.
The attorney-general's insistence on engaging an external party, lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is currently under a criminal investigation, has also raised concerns. Meanwhile, Robertson also pointed out how the country’s sodomy law “seems to exist chiefly to persecute Anwar”.
“Prime Minister Najib should seek the law’s immediate revocation before it can be used to harass and imprison others.”
The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors civil and political rights, held in 1994 that sodomy laws violate rights to privacy and non-discrimination, he added.
“In 2011, leading members of the Commonwealth of Nations, to which Malaysia belongs, called for the abolition of sodomy laws."
“Prosecuting Anwar for something that should never be considered a crime shows how far the government is prepared to go to remove a political opponent.
“By using this law, the government is also putting the rights and freedoms of Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community at risk.”