Human rights advocate groups Article 19 and CIVICUS on Thursday released a joint statement expressing concern that peaceful protestors across Malaysia are being met with harassment from police.The statement has come in the wake of a series of protests in the region, which has included farmers protesting against land eviction policies, a ‘Save Malaysia’ protest against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s discharge from corruption charges and peaceful protest marches for International Women’s Rights Day and Labour Day.A central concern raised by Article 19 and CIVICUS is that the police are making use of legislative instruments to infringe on the protesters’ rights of assembly and free speech. Following a September 12 protest, police questioned several members of the Malaysian Socialist Party, on the basis that the protests had resulted in ‘obstructing civil servants from performing their duties’ pursuant to section 186 of the Penal Code. Police have also relied on the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 as a basis for questioning protesters. These concerns are not new to the region. In its 2022 report on Malaysia, Amnesty International noted that, “Authorities used repressive laws to restrict freedom of expression. Peaceful protests were prevented and protest organizers prosecuted.” In 2022, police stopped several peaceful protests, including a protest involving hundreds of lawyers opposed to governmental interference within the legal system. At a recent protest, organisers reported that police were demanding proof of protest permits, despite the fact that this is not a legal requirement in the region. Speaking on what he described as “scare tactics,” Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific Researcher, stated:There is no basis for the police to haul up peaceful protesters for questioning. This is a clear form of harassment and creates a chilling effect for those who want to organise protests. Further, the police must stop demanding that protesters require permission from them to undertake a protest, when all that is required is a notification.In closing, the statement highlighted that Malaysia’s human rights record is scheduled for review by the UN Human Rights Council in 2024. However, following its previous review, Amnesty International noted that Malaysia rejected 120 recommendations, “including those which remain relevant and if implemented would contribute to improving the human rights situation.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *