Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Press Release: Use of the ISA cannot be justified

The Malaysian Bar has persistently adopted the position that all laws that allow for detention without trial, including the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA), should be repealed immediately. We have been in dialogue with the Government, advocating that it go beyond a mere review of the repressive ISA, to abolish it completely, and we welcomed the release last year of several detainees who had been held under the ISA.

The Malaysian Bar is therefore shocked and astounded that once again, the Government has resorted to this offensive legislation as a basis for arresting and detaining both Malaysians and foreigners, and is also brandishing it in respect of recent attacks against churches. We unequivocally denounce this approach. The alleged reasons for the detention are immaterial, as there can be no justification for this blatant transgression of the fundamental principle of justice.

It bears repeating that the detention of persons without trial is an unjustified infringement of universal principles of human rights, and a violation of the Rule of Law and the principles of a democratic Government. Among other reasons, detention without trial violates a person’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and his/her right to a fair and public trial where he/she may be defended.

The ISA is not a solution to any perceived threat to our peace. In fact, we fail to see what threat there is to our peace that could possibly justify the use of the severely blunt instrument of the ISA. The avowed grounds of arrest are all matters that come within the purview of existing laws in the country. Furthermore, laws like the ISA do not allow for judicial oversight and are therefore susceptible to serious abuse.

The use of the ISA, far from relieving any perceived tension, has instead created far more uneasiness and unhappiness amongst right-thinking people in Malaysia.

Once again, the Malaysian Bar strongly calls upon the Government to repeal the ISA and all other laws that allow for the detention of persons without trial. Furthermore, the Government must immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained under such laws, and where appropriate, prosecute them in a public and fair trial.

We have said it before and we will say it again – if there are perceived offences, charge these people and give them their fundamental right to defend themselves.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

3 February 2010 [link]

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