The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] recommended Friday that Malaysia repeal or amend its internal security laws, which allow indefinite detainment without trial. At the end of an official visit [press release], the group said amending the laws would allow Malaysia to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text; Bernama report]. The UN group had been in the country observing prisons and detention centers and was highly critical of four fundamental security laws, including the Internal Security Act (ISA) [text, PDF; AI backgrounder]. Group chairman Malick Sow said that although detainees were generally treated well in the prisons, they were more likely to be tortured [BBC report] in order to obtain evidence or confessions while in detention. The group will present a full report on Malaysia to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] early next year.
Malaysia's internal security laws have been heavily criticized. Last August, a Malaysian court charged 29 protesters [JURIST report] for their alleged involvement in rallies against the country's Internal Security Act. The demonstration was allegedly started by the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog]. The law was protested by an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, resulting in 589 arrests and the use of tear gas and water cannons by police. The protesters were charged with aiding an illegal organization or participating in an illegal rally since a police permit was not obtained. At the time, Prime Minister Najib Razak [official website; BBC profile] dismissed the protest as being unnecessary since he previously pledged to review the controversial law. In January 2008, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website, in French] called for the country to abolish the ISA [JURIST report], claiming that the law was being used to stifle peaceful dissent.