Wednesday, February 22, 2017

HRD Lena Hendry found Guilty - A Sad day for Human Rights?

On 21/2/2017, Human Rights Defender, Lena Hendry, has been found GUILTY by the Magistrate Court, and another date was fixed for sentencing.  The charge under Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 carries a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to RM30,000 or both if convicted..

See earlier related posts:- 

ARTICLE 19, ALIRAN, PROHAM, NUBE,WH4C & 111 Others say Drop Charges against Lena Hendry

Lena Hendry - Drop Charges says ICJ, Article 19, FIDH, Front Line, OMCT & 116 other groups

HR Defender Lena Hendry Acquitted by Court - Draconian law remains..?


On 10/3/2016, she was acquitted by the Magistrate Court 

Activist Lena Hendry has been acquitted of the charge of screening a film on the Sri Lankan killing fields, which had not been approved by the Censorship Board.... "The magistrate has found that the prosecution has failed to prove a prima facie case against her (Hendry) and has therefore acquitted her,...
But the government did not let go, and the prosecution appealed to the High Court...and on 21/9/2016, the High Court allowed the appeal, and
Judicial Commissioner Shariff Abu Samah set aside the Magistrate Court’s order which acquitted Lena in March at the end of the prosecution’s case...The High Court ordered Lena Hendry, an activist, to enter defence
Not sure whether there was an appeal to the Court of Appeal, but in any event , the trial at the Magistrate's Court continued, and Lena Hendry has now been found guilty...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 | MYT 4:48 PM

Activist Lena Hendry disappointed over conviction

KUALA LUMPUR: Activist Lena Hendry was convicted by a magistrate's court over the charge of screening a Sri Lankan civil war documentary that had not been approved by the Censorship Board.

Hendry, 32, who stood expressionless in the dock upon hearing the verdict, said she was disappointed with the judgment.

"We will definitely appeal. No proof to convict me," Hendry, who was accompanied by her lawyer New Sin Yew, told reporters here Tuesday.

Her well-wishers, friends and supporters surrounded her after the judgment, and they hugged and consoled her.

A supporter of her was holding a placard saying "Human Rights Documentaries are not dangerous".

One of those present in the public gallery was Ivy Josiah, who is Hakam's (National Human Rights Society) exco member and former executive director of Women Aid Organisation.

Josiah said she was disappointed over the ruling, saying that "the film had been shown everywhere in the world."

In his judgment, magistrate Mohd Rehan Mohd Aris ruled that the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubts in the case.

"The accused is found guilty," he told the packed courtroom.

Mohd Rehan ordered both parties to file their respective submissions and set March 22 for sentencing.
He also extended Hendry's bail of RM1,000 pending disposal of the case.

A High Court had on Sept 21, 2016 set aside an acquittal order against Hendry and ordered her to enter her defence over the charge.

In reversing her acquittal order, Judicial Commissioner Mohamad Shariff Abu Samah found that there was a prima facie case against Hendry.

Mohd Rehan had on March 10 last year acquitted Hendry after ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against her at the end of their case.

A total of eight prosecution witnesses and three defence witnesses, including Hendry, had given sworn evidence in the trial. 

Hendry, who was also the programme coordinator for a human rights group Pusat Komas, claimed trial in a magistrate’s court on Sept 19, 2013 to illegally screening the documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka".

The film directed by British national Callum Macrae explores the alleged oppression by the Sri Lankan government of Tamils in the island nation.

She was said to have committed the offence at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall at Jalan Maharajalela here at 9pm on July 3, 2013.  

The charge under Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 carries a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to RM30,000 or both if convicted. DPP Nurakmal Farhan Aziz prosecuted the case


21 February 2017
Conviction of Lena Hendry Another Blow to Freedom of Expression!
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) finds the decision to convict Lena Hendry by the magistrate court under Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Board regrettable and flawed in nature.
The absence of adequate evidence led to Lena’s initial accquital was sound as there was a lack of evidence on part of the prosecution in their charges. The subsequent conviction of Lena on 21st February depart from this and utilized the flawed system in Malaysia which undo the presumption of innocence that serve as the foundation of any common law based criminal justice system. Convicting the defense based on their inability to prove beyond reasonable doubt of their innocence remains a blatant trangression against the right to fair trial and Lena’s conviction marks another injustice by the Malaysian criminal justice system.
On top of the manifest injustice in her conviction, the attempt to punish an individual for screening a documentary is reprehensible on many levels. A documentary is often made to serve as a historical record of an event that transpired and leaves a legacy or story that can be viewed by the future generations. Censoring or preventing documentaries from being screened does not protect the public but only serve to protect select groups by hiding an inconvinient truth and deprive future generations of important knowledge on history.

Furthermore an attempt to punish an individual for allegedly screening ‘No Fire Zone’ is contemptible to say the least as the act of preventing the screening tantamounts to protecting those who may have committed crime against humanity. if the Malaysian government seeks to protect others against genocide and crime against humanity, why is it now complicit in protecting those who may have commited crime against humanity.

SUARAM reiterate our strongest condemnation against the repression of freedom of expression by the Malaysian government and stand in solidarity with Lena Hendry in her fight for human rights and democracy!

In Solidarity
Sevan Doraisamy
Executive Director

Malaysia: Convicted for Showing a Film
Prosecution of Lena Hendry Violates Right to Free Expression

(Bangkok, February 22, 2017) – A Malaysian court’s conviction of rights activist Lena Hendry for her role in showing a documentary film violates her right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today. On February 21, 2017, a Kuala Lumpur court found Hendry guilty of organizing a private screening of the award-winning human rights documentary, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” without censorship board approval nearly four years ago. She will be sentenced on March 22, and faces fines and up to three years in prison.

“It’s an outrageous assault on basic free expression that Lena Hendry could go to prison for helping to show a documentary film,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This prosecution is part of the Malaysian government’s disturbing pattern of harassment and intimidation of those seeking to raise public awareness of human rights issues.”

Hendry, a former staff member of the human rights group Pusat KOMAS, was convicted under section 6 of Malaysia’s Film Censorship Act, which prohibits the “circulation, distribution, display, production, sale, hire” or “possession” of any film, whether imported or domestically produced, without first obtaining approval from the government-appointed Board of Censors. Malaysia’s highest court
rejected a constitutional challenge to the law in September 2015. A magistrate acquitted her of the charge in March 2016, finding that the government had failed to make a basic case showing her guilt. On September 21, 2016, the High Court reversed Hendry’s acquittal and ordered a resumption of the case after the government appealed.

Bringing criminal penalties for possessing or privately showing a film without government approval violates freedom of expression by imposing a disproportionate burden on a fundamental right, Human Rights Watch said.

The Film Censorship Act is rarely invoked, and Pusat KOMAS regularly screens films on politics, human rights, culture, and other issues without censorship board approval, with admission by pre-registration only.

The prosecution in this case appears to have been motivated by the Malaysian government’s desire to appease Sri Lankan embassy officials, who had publicly demanded that the film not be shown and visited the venue on the day of the film’s showing to urge the venue’s managers to cancel the event. “No Fire Zone” tells the story of war crimes committed in the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, including Sri Lankan army shelling that indiscriminately killed thousands of civilians and the extrajudicial executions of captured fighters and supporters of the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“The Film Censorship Act violates rights by giving the government the power to arbitrarily suppress films it doesn’t want Malaysians to see, and to prosecute those who dare to show them,” Robertson said. “Malaysia should scrap this draconian law’s criminal penalties, revise it to comply with international rights standards, and allow Malaysian citizens to view films of their choosing.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Malaysia, please visit:

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