© The Sun (Used by permission)
by Bernard Cheah
KUALA LUMPUR: The Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance (EO) should be repealed and the country should just rely on criminal laws to prosecute criminals, the US–based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
"The EO was enacted in 1969 as a temporary measure to respond to the May 13 riots. But for nearly four decades, the government has used the law to detain criminal suspects without trial for lengthy periods as a shortcut when there is insufficient evidence," said HRW Asia division researcher Sahr MuhammedAlly today.
She was speaking to reporters after launching a 35–page report "Convicted Before Trial: Indefinite Detention Under Malaysia's Emergency Ordinance", a result of a one–year research project she conducted.
The report documents how the Malaysian government has detained criminal suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, and subjected them to ill–treatment while in detention at the Simpang Renggam Behavioural Rehabilitation Centre.
It also highlights how detainees are re–arrested upon court–ordered release.
Sahr pointed out that the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police had also recommended for the EO to be abolished because it had outlived its purpose and violates civil liberties.
The Royal Commission had also said the EO was a "lazy way" for the police to lock up suspects without conducting proper investigation.
"However, nothing has been done about it (since then)," she said.
Sahr also called for an investigation into Simpang Renggam's inhumane and degrading conditions where cells are overcrowded and unhygienic, and food inedible.
Suaram secretariat member S. Arutchelvan said the EO has been abused more than the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA).
He said while there were more than 100 detainees under the ISA as of last year and more than 100 under the DDA as of end of 2004, there were 712 EO detainees as of last year (2005).
Arutchelvan said there were EO detainees who were juveniles, and detainees who have been held for almost eight years.
The EO allows for detention without trial that can be renewed indefinitely every two years, after the first 60 days of detention.
Arutchelvan said the EO can be used against anyone.
"Many who are detained are left wondering why they were detained in the first place," he said.
He noted that other groups have also called for the EO to be repealed, including Suhakam, the Bar Council and the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights.
Also present at the launch was former EO detainee Mohd Samsudin Mohd Ibrahim, who was remanded for a total of 143 days in several lockups in Kedah, Penang and Perak before being re–arrested and detained under the EO for 60 days.
He was later ordered to be in restricted residence for two years in Jerantut for robbery.
"I lost my business and I was cut off from my family," Mohd Samsudin said.
Sahr and Suaram will be submitting the HRW report to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz on Monday (Aug 28, 2006) at Parliament.
*The report is available online at http://hrw.org/reports/2006/malaysia0806/.