Malaysia to repeal strict laws allowing detention without trial

[JURIST] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] announced on Thursday that the government would repeal two strict security laws that had allowed extended detention of suspects without trial, as well as review other laws dealing with freedom of the press. The government will abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) of 1960 [text, PDF] and the Banishment Act of 1959 [text, PDF]. The ISA allowed the prime minister to order the imprisonment of individuals deemed to be a threat to national security for a period of up to two years without a trial. The Banishment Act granted the prime minister the right to expel any non-citizen from the country. Razak also announced that the government will carefully review the Restricted Residence Act of 1933, Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 and Section 27 of the Police Act of 1967 [texts, PDFs], which allowed police supervision of suspects and regulated newspapers and the right of citizens to assemble peacefully. Some see the actions as movement toward a more democratic government [The Sun Daily report], while others warn that the announcement was politically motivated and not a strong sign of reform.

Malaysia has been criticized for alleged rights violations. For example, last week, the three-judge Malaysian Federal Court [official website] ruled unanimously against indigenous people [JURIST report] fighting against the Sarawak government's seizure of land to build a dam. The court had agreed to hear the suit [JURIST report] in March. Two of the judges refused to rule on the constitutionality of the land takings, saying that the case should have gone to arbitration, and the third judge ruled that the takings were constitutional. The Center for Orang Asli Concerns [advocacy website] expressed disappointment in the ruling, which it said failed to uphold citizens' rights. There are currently more than 100 unresolved land rights suits filed by indigenous people in Malaysia's lower courts.

 

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