Thursday, July 05, 2007

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA: RELA Bill will worsen the climate of arbitrary law enforcement


5 July 2007

RELA Bill will worsen the climate of arbitrary law enforcement

Amnesty International Malaysia expresses serious concerns over the
recent news highlighted in the media on the 26 June 2007 that the Home
Affairs Ministry plans to restructure the civilian volunteer body RELA
into a separate department with greater authority and even powers to
source out its own funding.

The ministry stated that RELA's main task once the bill is passed will
be to catch illegal immigrants and to help the immigration and police.
The Ministry is planning to table the Bill on RELA in parliament this
year which will make RELA as a full fledge law enforcement department.

Amnesty International fears that the proposed bill to empower RELA with
further enforcement powers will legitimize and strengthen the powers of
arrest; search and detention functions of a body which has been known to
act arbitrary and in an overzealous manner. This will worsen the current
climate of arbitrary law enforcement in Malaysia and will increase the
abuse of power and human rights violations.

Current under the law RELA has very wide and discretionary powers. This
includes powers to stop any person by the standard of reasonable belief
that the person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or
an occupier in order to make inquiries and to arrest these persons
without warrant. They have also been given powers to enter and search
any premises without a warrant and to carry arms. Recent incidents have
shown that RELA officers have arrested and detained persons on their own
without an oversight mechanism of a competent authority.

AI Malaysia strongly objects the enforcement powers provided to RELA
contained in the proposed bill. We believe that law enforcement work
that involves powers to arrest, search and detain must be only be given
to competent and specially trained full time authorities coupled with
clear provision in terms of powers and accountability. This is due to
the fact that these powers can affect fundamental liberties and the
freedom of a human being. Therefore these powers should not be extended
to a volunteer civilian body with poorly trained, part time members.
They must be limited to the police and Immigration officials with clear
guidelines and accountability mechanisms.

We are concerned about the powers given to RELA to secure its own
funding which will make the department to function as a "private
enforcement" body, hence become vulnerable to corrupt practices.

We are also concerned that the proposed Bill shows the tendency on the
part of the government to employ an approach of arbitrary arrest and
detention as the first and only solution to address any particular
situation. It also highlights the continued use of "emergency laws" for
enforcement which has contributed to systematic human rights violation
in this country.

Josef Roy Benedict
Executive Director
Amnesty International Malaysia

E6, 3rd Floor, Bangunan Khas,
Jalan 8/1E, 46050 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel : 03-79552680
Fax: 03-79552682
Email : aimalaysia@aimalays
Website :

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