[JURIST] Malaysian lawmakers approved detention without trial in a new anti-terror bill that passed on Tuesday, but human rights groups criticize the bill as a giant step backwards for human rights in the country. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was passed [AP report] by the country’s Parliament with a 79-60 vote. If approved The new law would allow authorities to detain suspects indefinitely without a trial, and would bar suspects from challenging their detainment in court. The government said the law is needed to fight islamic militants, as dozens of Malaysians have been arrested since 2013 for suspected links to the Islamic State group. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called it a “giant step backwards for human rights” in Malaysia, and that it raises concerns that the government will use the law to intimidate vocal critics. “By restoring indefinite detention without trial, Malaysia has re-opened Pandora’s Box for politically motivated, abusive state actions that many had thought was closed with the abusive Internal Security Act was revoked in 2012,” said HRW Asia Director [statement] Phil Robertson [official profile]. The bill will need to be approved by the upper house of Parliament and by the King, but those are considered formalities.
In 2013, after arresting some 100 Malaysians suspected of supporting the Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder] militant group, the Malaysian government stated [JURIST report] they needed new measures to curb militants. IS has caused increasing international alarm over its human rights abuses [JURIST report] since its insurgence into Syria and Iraq in 2013. Last month the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly released a report [JURIST report] detailing violations against Iraqi civilians under the spread of IS. In December the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [official website] reported that the IS executed [JURIST report] 1,878 people in Syria between June and December. That month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned [JURIST report] the groups beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Syria. The Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated in November that the ICC is contemplating bringing war crimes charges against IS jihadist fighters.