The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015 can easily open up space for abuse and torture, cautions Malaysian Bar Council president Steven Thiru.
Speaking at the launch of the Joint Campaign for Malaysia's Accession to the Convention Against Torture (ACT4CAT) at University Malaya today, Thiru (photo) said that Pota in its current form contains many provisions that can be abused.
"Experiences of those held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) are perhaps the best evidence of torture in detention and there is enough in Pota to say that it is a revival of ISA," he said.
He warned that Pota had the potential to be even worse than the ISA as the latter at least defined its targets clearly while the former left the definition of a 'terrorist' wide open.
Plus the fact, he added, that someone who is arrested under Pota just 'disappears into the system'.
Thiru said that anyone arrested under Pota was handled behind closed doors and this could very well lead to torture being used on prisoners.
Thiru explained the situation was exacerbated by Section 10(3) of the controversial act which states that a police officer may '… procure and receive all evidence, whether the evidence be admissible or not under any written law, which he may think necessary or desirable.'
This provision implies that the officer has the sanction to utilise torture to extract evidence and information if he or she deems it necessary.
'Be serious, stop torture'
"We need to say that we do not want Pota, because it seems that torture can thrive under it and we do not want any law that allows torture," he insisted.
This is one of the reasons why the Bar Council has lent their support to this joint campaign calling for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), he said
Also for the campaign were Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), Suaram, Suhakam and Amnesty International Malaysia.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said they realised there won't be an overnight change in terms of using torture if the government ratifies UN-CAT.
"It is an ongoing change but what we want is for the Malaysian government to show that it is serious about torture eradication," she said.