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Malaysia parliament considering new security law

The Malaysian parliament [official website] is considering a new law that would replace the Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF; HRW backgrounder]. The new law, introduced [BBC report] on Tuesday, will significantly limit the time period for which a person can be detained by the police without trial from an indefinite period to a maximum of 28 days. Within the time frame, police can investigate allegations of whether detainees pose a security threat, after which they may be released or charged. In addition, the new law will prohibit detention of individuals solely based on their political beliefs. However, it allows prosecutors to detain individuals, even if they are acquitted at trial level, so long as all appeals have been addressed. The proposed law will be presented in Parliament's lower house for debate next week and after the bill is approved by the lower house, it must be endorsed by the upper house and Malaysia's constitutional monarch Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] originally announced [JURIST report] that the government would repeal the ISA and the Banishment Act of 1959 [text] in September and initiated [JURIST report] the plan in October.

Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] urged [JURIST report] Malaysia to take into consideration international human rights standards. In October after the prime minister's announcement, the Malaysian government released 125 prisoners [JURIST report] who were held in detention under the Restricted Residence Act of 1933. Malaysia's internal security laws were heavily criticized in the past by various human rights organizations. In June, 2010, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] recommended Malaysia repeal or amend its security laws to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. In 2009, the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog] initiated a demonstration against the law in which 10,000 to 20,000 people participated and resulted in 589 arrests. 29 of them were charged [JURIST report] for their involvement in the rallies. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] had also called [JURIST report] Malaysia to abolish the ISA in 2008.

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