Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Front Line Defenders:- Malaysia – New assembly law will violate the legitimate right of human rights defenders to peaceful assembly

The Malaysian government can at any time withdraw this Bill, and prevent it from becoming law. The Malaysian Senate is also filled with Barisan Nasional appointed Senators, and they like the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament also generally do not have the independence or the guts to reject a Bill that is being tabled by the Barisan Nasional government...Even, if the government do withdraw this Peaceful Assembly Bill, they can always re-table a Bill at a later date... The option thus lies with the government...

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30 November 2011

Re: Malaysia – New assembly law will violate the legitimate right of human rights defenders to peaceful assembly 
On 29 November 2011, the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament approved a Peaceful Assembly Bill. This Bill will severely effect the right of human rights defenders (HRDs) to exercise peaceful assembly to campaign for human rights. The Bill will be reviewed by the Senate on 7 December 2011. 
HRDs in Malaysia have been subjected to violence when they exercise their rights to peaceful assembly to raise public concerns on human rights. Front Line has issued a number of urgent appeals on behalf of HRDs whose right to peaceful assembly were violated, including the raid on the secretariat of Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) and the brief detention of their staff prior to the peaceful assembly that the coalition was holding.

In July 2011, Front Line issued an urgent appeal after Malaysian authorities banned fifteen prominent human rights leaders from entering Kuala Lumpur during the time of a demonstration. During a mission to the country in July-August 2011, a Front Line representative witnessed the direct intimidation and harassment of HRDs by riot police and special branch police during a peaceful assembly which called for the release of individuals who were subjected to arbitrarily detention under the Emergency Ordinance.

According to the Bill, street protests will be outlawed. Organisers are obliged to inform authorities 10 days prior to the dates on which the assembly will be held. It is reported that the Bill also gives ultimate power to police and the Ministry of Home Affairs to authorise peaceful demonstrations. The police will have the power to impose conditions, including date, time, and the venue of the assembly.

Front Line is also informed that under the law no one under the age of 21 will be permitted to organise an assembly, while persons under the age of 15 will not be allowed to participate in peaceful assemblies. The police will be allowed to fine the organiser up to RM 10,000 (€ 23,733) if they receive no advance notice of a planned assembly. In addition, the police will be allowed to fine those arrested for organising an unauthorised assembly a maximum of RM 20,000 (€ 47,465). 
Front Line is concerned by the lack of transparency in the process of drafting this Bill as the draft Bill was only made known to the public last week, while the version which will be reviewed by the Senate has not yet been released to HRDs. Front Line is alarmed that the law will further restrict the rights of HRDs in Malaysia to peacefully assemble. Front Line considers that the components making up the the law are contradictory to Article 10 (1) (b) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention to the Rights of the Child which Malaysia is a party to. 
Front Line urges the authorities in Malaysia to:
  1. Extend the review process by the Senate by at least three months to ensure proper scrutiny of the Peaceful Assembly Bill in order to ensure that it conforms with international human rights standards
  2. Hold proper consultations with human rights defenders and organisations and seriously take their concerns into account;

  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations in Malaysia are free to carry out their legitimate activities in defending and protecting the rights of others, without fear of reprisals and free of all undue restrictions.

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