ARTICLE 19, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) are deeply concerned that, despite its new membership to the Human Rights Council, the Malaysian government continues to fall short on its human rights protections at home. The government’s continuous clampdown on activists and critical voices undermines the pledges it made to promote and protect human rights while seeking election to the Human Rights Council.
In Malaysia, authorities use domestic laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 to silence critical discussions, target civil society members, stifle press freedom, and discourage peaceful assemblies. A clear example is the prosecution of artist Fahmi Reza for his political satire under the Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act twice so far this year.
The space for protests has shrunk considerably in recent years. After the #tangkapazambaki anti-corruption protest in January of this year, we saw the police haul up individuals and organisers involved in the protest for investigation. In its pledges to the Human Rights Council, the government had committed to a review of the Peaceful Assembly Act, which remains inconsistent with international law. We urge the government to uphold this commitment.
Despite legislative guarantees in Malaysia, namely Article 8(2) of the Malaysian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender, systemic discrimination against minorities persists.
Police reform should be prioritised alongside legal reform, so that the police force respect human rights and take steps to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account. This year alone we have recorded 12 deaths in custody.
We call on the Malaysian government to reverse systematic abuses and restrictive policies at home to be a credible and effective champion of human rights at the Human Rights Council. The government has a unique opportunity to reverse the rights-violating actions of its predecessors and shift to a new rights-respecting approach. We stand ready to engage in constructive dialogue with the government to support such efforts.