The Malaysian Prime Minister [official website] pledged Monday to review the country's Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF; HRW backgrounder]. Parliament [official website] was expected to replace the law [JURIST report] that currently allows for indefinite detention of terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents. The new act, known as the Security Offences Act, was tabled last week in Parliament, but would ensure that suspects must be released or brought to court within 28 days in custody. The Act also stipulates that people cannot be jailed simply for their political beliefs. Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] stated this was an attempt to create a Malaysia that recognizes the human rights [AFP report] of the individual while also balancing those rights with the interests of the community. Opponents have argued that Razak's reforms are an attempt to garner votes before the upcoming election. The prime minister 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 2011, 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 [JURIST report] 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 20,00 people participated and resulted in 589 arrests. Of those arrested, 29 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.