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Rights group condemns Malaysia proposals allowing detention without trial

Malaysia's proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 [text, PDF], which would reinstate detention without trial for certain individuals with criminal histories, are a "huge step backwards," Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Wednesday. HRW said that the amendments would allow detention for up to two years without trial if authorities find that the person has committed at least two serious offenses, regardless of whether he or she was actually ever convicted, so long as it is in the interest of the following undefined terms: "public order," "public security" or "prevention of crime." Prime Minister Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak [official profile] supports the amendments. The Malaysian Parliament [official website, in Malay] is set to vote on the revisions as early as Friday. HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said that Najib is "backing methods that do little to curtail crime but threaten everyone's liberty."

Last October a Malaysian court awarded damages [JURIST report] to a group of five opposition politicians and activists who were unlawfully detained pursuant to the country's controversial Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF], which permits indefinite detention without trial for terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents. Three politicians and two activists were detained without trial for two years after being arrested in 2001 following anti-government protests. Last year the Malaysian Parliament approved a law [JURIST report] aimed at replacing the ISA. Najib originally announced [JURIST report] that the government would repeal the ISA as well as the Banishment Act of 1959 [text] in September 2011 and initiated the repeal [JURIST report] a month later.

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