22 June 2012
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association, Maina Kiai’s reporting session resumed today where he mentioned Malaysia on numerous occasions in his closing speech. Maina Kiai affirmed his intention to continue constructive dialogue and debate with a number of countries he had visited and to those to which he sent a request to enable him to carry out his mandate. Malaysia was specifically mentioned.
The Special Rapporteur in his observations pointed out that an increasing worrying trend was that of governments worldwide using legislative powers to restrict and suppress the rights of the citizens, in particular freedom of assembly and association. Malaysia has followed suit, implementing the notorious Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which threatens demonstrators with hefty monetary sentences. A worrying development is the recent civil suit filed by the government against BERSIH 2.0 steering committee members. The Defendants in the civil suit had sought a declaration from the court that the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 is unconstitutional and contravenes fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
In regard to security of demonstrators in peaceful assemblies, in his wisdom, Mr. Kiai stressed that it is trite that the duty and responsibility lies on the security/police officers. Mr. Kiai also pointed out that, as far as it is practical, organisers can help by ensuring a peaceful and orderly demonstration but to impose onerous responsibility on the organisers is erroneous.
It is important for the Royal Malaysian Police to take heed of the learned Special Rapporteur’s recommendation on the crucial importance of sufficient training to police in upholding rights of demonstrators at a peaceful assembly and proper measures to facilitate a demonstration.
Mr. Kiai urged governments to conduct a thorough independent investigation on complaints received from victims of police’s excessive force at assemblies.
In his report, Mr. Kiai also clearly stated that “…the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly should not be subject to prior authorization by the authorities, but at the most to a prior notification procedure, which should not be burdensome…” He also clearly laid out that “…One of the central elements of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association is that “everyone is entitled to these rights”. This means that all individuals, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, shall enjoy these rights. This applies inter alia equally to women and men, youth, persons with disabilities, persons belonging to minority groups or holding ‘unpopular or controversial’ opinions (A/62/225) or other groups at risk, including those victims of discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as non-nationals. As a result, no one must be criminalized for the sole exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, nor should he or she be subject to any discrimination, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution, intimidation or reprisals…”
SUARAM welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s report which highlights the importance of the freedom of assembly and association and outlines principles for best practice. We call on the government to implement these recommendations with immediate effect.
Released by, Nalini Elumalai, Executive Director, SUARAM, detention@suaram,net