Human Rights Watch's Submission to the Human Rights Council
February 4, 2009

Summary

In April 2006, Malaysia's Aide Memoire in support of its election to the Human Rights Council stated in part that "the increasing threat posed by terrorism worldwide has highlighted the importance of balancing security concerns with the preservation of individual liberties." It went on to say that drawing on prior experience, "Malaysia believes it has achieved this balance." The Aide Memoire also suggested that Malaysia's "experience managing a plural society would bring an important dimension to the work of the new Human Rights Council." Events before and after Malaysia's election to the HRC belie both assertions.

The Malaysian government lets national security concerns trump protection of fundamental human rights. Outdated laws and regulations such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance undermine fundamental rights and liberties such as freedom of assembly, expression, and the right to due process. While the national emergencies proclaimed in the 1960s and 1970s have long been resolved, the laws introduced then - the ISA and Emergency Ordinance -- remain. RELA (People's Volunteer Corps or Ikatan Relawan Rakyat), an untrained paramilitary force numbering over half a million, is being strengthened and given sweeping new powers to arrest and
detain undocumented migrants and criminal suspects. As far as documented migrant workers are concerned, domestic workers lack protection under the law and face a range of abuses.

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