[JURIST] The government of Malaysia is abusing broad, vaguely worded laws to jail its critics, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Tuesday. Before reelection, Prime Minister Najib Razak [BBC profile] promised to support political rights by repealing the Sedition Act, which, according to HRW, began to be used frequently after Razak’s reelection in 2013 to harass and arrest opposing politicians and activists for criticizing the government. Instead of repealing the act, 2015 provisions strengthened these laws and created harsher penalties. Several different acts have been used to stop the publication of newspapers critical of the government, limit the number of published newspapers, arrest users of social media, and block websites that report on corruption. HRW is urging the government to repeal or amend these laws, drop any ongoing criminal prosecutions based on peaceful assembly and expression, and to instruct law enforcement to not hinder peaceful public assemblies. HRW also called on nations throughout the world to raise public concern about civil rights violations in Malaysia and to urge Razak to commit to policy changes.
Much controversy has surrounded Najib Razak’s terms as prime minister. In July Razak fired [JURIST report] Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail after learning that Patail was investigating him for corruption. That same month, two major opposition parties called for [JURIST report] an emergency sitting of parliament in order to discuss Razak’s future as prime minister. In 2006, Razak was accused [BBC report] of being connected to the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, after her remains were found in October of that year in Kuala Lumpur. Razak, who was deputy prime minister at the time, denied having any connections to the murder or even knowing the model. A political analyst and associate of Razak’s was charged with aiding [BBC report] the murder, but these charges were later dropped.