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Press Release: 29 May 2007
Human Rights Regress and Protective Systems Collapse
Under Abdullah Badawis Administration in 2006
Human rights under the Mr. Nice Guy - Abdullah Ahmad Badawis administration has regressed further in 2006 coupled with alarming collapse of the system and institutions for the protection of human rights, said Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), the leading human rights group during its annual human rights report launch today.
According to the executive director of Suaram, Yap Swee Seng, the regression of human rights in 2006 are manifested in three regressive trends, namely the growing of the cultures of impunity, religious intolerance and vigilante. If these trends are not checked, they will be detrimental to the protection and promotion of human rights in future, warned
First and foremost, the culture of impunity is very prevalent in the law enforcement authorities, especially the police force and the immigration department, that they acted as if they are above the law and untouchable, said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Suaram.
The growing of religious intolerance, both by state actors and non-state actors has been highlighted by Suaram as the second worrying regressive trend. Cases documented in Suarams report, including the suggestion of prohibiting casual greeting of Deeparaya, by Takaful Malaysia, the denial of the right for non-Muslim to seek redress in a civil court in cases involving both Muslim and non-Muslim such as the case of Moorthy and Subashini, the denial of the right to choose a persons own religion such as in the case of Lina Joy, the violent protests staged by certain groups in stopping a peaceful forum in Penang, and the most serious intolerance being the death threats issued against Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer that acted in some of these cases defending the right to freedom of religion.
The third alarming regressive trend is the institutionalizatio
Underlying these three regressive trends is the alarming collapse of system and institutions that are designed to check abuses and protect human rights, said the Suaram executive director.
For example, the internal investigation mechanism by police has failed miserably in bringing corrupted cops to book and addressing the problems of impunity. The failure of conducting inquest on each and every custodial death is the norm of the day rather than exceptions. In the case of religious intolerance, the civil court has generally abdicated from its duty in protecting the right to freedom of religion and leaving the victims in legal wilderness with no protection. In the case of vigilante culture, the government has repeatedly defended RELA despite large numbers of complaints against the RELA.
Suaram said the check and balance systems and institutions must be strengthened if these regressive trends are to be reversed. It calls on the government to set up immediately the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to end the widespread impunity in the police force and the RELA to be disbanded in preventing the growth of the vigilante culture based on emergency law that has outlived its original purpose. Recommendations and result of public inquiries conducted by National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) must be respected and enforced.
The civil court should not shy away from religious freedom cases and must act to protect the rights of individual to freedom of religion, as entrusted to them under the Constitution, said Yap.
Clearly, there is a need for a thorough reform of the system and institutions to halt these regressive trends and protect human rights. Abdullah Badawis government must show greater political will in restoring public confidence in the system and institutions for the protection of human rights, failing which his own credibility would be seriously questioned and the people shall judge him in the coming general election.