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VII. Recommendations

To the Malaysian Government

  • Abolish or amend the ISA.  All persons arrested in Malaysia should be promptly brought before a judge, informed of the charges against them, and have access to legal counsel and family members.  They should be tried in conformity with international fair trial standards. 

  • Immediately charge or release all individuals currently held under the ISA.  Those charged should have prompt access to legal counsel and family members, and be tried in conformity with international fair trial standards.  

  • End the practice of using physical or mental torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including kicking or hitting detainees, as an interrogation tool.

  • Until the ISA is abolished, end the practice of threatening heavier sanctions against detainees if they attempt to exercise what limited due process rights are available to them under the ISA, including seeking an attorney or attempting to challenge their detention in court.

  • Take disciplinary or legal action against Special Branch, police, and other officials who interrogate detainees using coercion, threats, or intimidation.

  • Set up an independent commission of inquiry into allegations of threats, coercion, and physical and psychological abuse in detention.  This inquiry could be folded into the recently formed Royal Commission to investigate police abuse, and in any case should maintain strict independence.

  • Prosecute or subject to appropriate disciplinary action any police officers or Special Branch officers found to have abused ISA detainees.

  • Set up a desk office for the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) in Kamunting Detention Center, and ensure that the desk officer is allowed to meet privately with inmates wishing to report instances of coercion or abuse.  SUHAKAM should also have the power to initiate a private meeting with an individual detainee if it has reason to believe that he or she may have been abused. 

  • Allow immediate and unfettered access to Kamunting Detention Center to both domestic and international human rights NGOs.  Any individual detainee who wishes to speak to NGO representatives should be allowed to do so in private.

  • Sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and begin the process of reforming all domestic law, including the ISA, to conform with these international instruments.

    To the U.S. Government

  • Renew the U.S. government’s strong pre-September 11th criticism of the ISA, and push for all ISA detainees, including those held on allegations of association with terrorism, to be either tried or released.

  • Ensure that U.S. officials do not seek to benefit from arbitrary arrests and detentions carried out by Malaysia, or participate in torture or other mistreatment of detainees.  Investigate and discipline or prosecute as necessary all U.S. officials who take part in or are in any way complicit in the mistreatment of detainees. 

  • Take all necessary measures to ensure that U.S. counterterrorism assistance to Malaysia is not used to violate human rights. 

    To the United Nations

    To the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary

  • Investigate allegations of lack of independence of Malaysian judges within the context of the ISA, and urge the Malaysian government to respect the independence of the Malaysian judiciary.

    To the Special Rapporteur on Torture

  • Call on the Malaysian government to sign and ratify the Convention against Torture, and begin an investigation of reports of torture and other mistreatment of ISA detainees.

    To the Counterterrorism Committee of the United Nations

  • Call on the Malaysian government to abide by its obligations under international human rights standards when engaging in counter-terrorist activity.  

  • Establish a long-term plan with Malaysia for developing mechanisms for combating terrorism while protecting human rights.


    This report was written by Tom Kellogg, Orville Schell fellow for Human Rights Watch, and is based on research by Tom Kellogg and Sam Zarifi, deputy director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, during a mission to Malaysia in December 2003. The report was edited by Sam Zarifi. Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division, provided editorial review. The report was also reviewed by James Ross, senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch, and Joe Saunders, deputy program director. Liz Weiss, coordinator for the Asia Division, provided administrative and technical assistance. Production assistance was provided by Andrea Holley, manager of outreach and publications, Fitzroy Hepkins, mail manager, Veronica Matushaj, photo editor, and Jagdish Parikh, online communications content coordinator.

    Human Rights Watch would like to thank the many individuals in Malaysia who contributed invaluably to this report, especially the family members of those still detained under the ISA and those who were themselves formerly detained under the ISA. Unfortunately, current conditions in Malaysia do not permit us to thank the family members we spoke to by name.

    This report would not have been possible without the active assistance of Malaysia’s small community of NGO activists, lawyers, and journalists who have continued their work in the face of constant government pressure. In particular, Human Rights Watch would like to thank Eli Wong of HAKAM, Yap Swee Seng of SUARAM, and Badaruddin Ismail, also known as Pak Din, from the Abolish ISA Movement. Four of the lawyers defending many of the detainees also shared with us their time and insights into their cases: Edmund Bon, Edward Saw, Lateefah Koya, and Amer Hamzah.

    Human Rights Watch

    Asia Division

    Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.

    We stand with victims and activists to bring offenders to justice, to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime.

    We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.

    We challenge governments and those holding power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law.

    We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.

    The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Carroll Bogert, associate director; Michele Alexander, development director; Rory Mungoven, advocacy director; Barbara Guglielmo, finance director; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Steve Crawshaw, London office director; Maria Pignataro Nielsen, human resources director; Iain Levine, program director; Wilder Tayler, legal and policy director; and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative.  Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the board.  Robert L. Bernstein is the founding chair.

    Its Asia division was established in 1985 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Asia.  Brad Adams is executive director; Saman Zia-Zarifi is deputy director; Veena Siddharth is advocacy director; Sara Colm and Mickey Spiegel are senior researchers; Meg Davis, Meenakshi Ganguly, Ali Hasan, Charmain Mohamed, John Sifton, and Tejshree Thapa are researchers; Thomas Kellogg is Orville Schell Fellow;Liz Weiss is coordinator; and Ami Evangelista is associate.  Joanne Leedom-Ackerman is chairperson of the advisory committee.

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