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The Role of the International Community

Anwar's sodomy conviction evoked widespread condemnation.

Asia and the Pacific

Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew called Mahathir's handling of the Anwar case "an unmitigated disaster," referring to the use of the ISA to detain Anwar and Mahathir's weak response to Anwar's being beaten in custody. (Lee later denied that he intended to criticize Mahathir.) Australian Prime Minister John Howard questioned the independence of Malaysia's judiciary and stated that the sodomy conviction was politically motivated. New Zealand's Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Phil Goff expressed concern about the fairness of the trial, including questionable evidentiary rulings, restrictions on the defense, and the judiciary's independence from the executive.

United States and Canada

The U.S. in April criticized Malaysia's crackdown on freedom of speech and peaceful assembly and called on the government to respect its citizen's civil and political rights. In May, the U.S. expressed concern about the rejection of Anwar's appeal of his corruption convictions and urged the judicial system to address due process concerns. In August, the U.S. State Department stated that the U.S. was "outraged" by Anwar's conviction and that the cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Malaysia had been impeded by the latter's poor human rights record. Canada also strongly condemned the trial and the sentence, stating that they reflected poorly on the impartiality of Malaysia's judicial system.


The European Parliament sent a five-member delegation to Malaysia in May. The delegation praised the creation of the national Human Rights Commission but expressed concern about the fairness of Anwar's trials and the independence of the judiciary and the press. Following Anwar's conviction in August, the European Union issued a statement of concern about the verdict and expressed serious doubts about the fairness of the trial.

United Nations and the World Bank

On April 10, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson voiced concern about a possible crackdown against opposition leaders in the run-up to the anniversary of Anwar's conviction on April 14, stated that her office would actively monitor the situation, and called on all parties to respect the right to peaceful expression. In August World Bank President James Wolfensohn expressed concern about Anwar's conviction.

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