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Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) denies fundamental rights and access to justice

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA STATEMENT

The revival of detention without trial through the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) points to a government thumbing its nose at calls for greater protection of fundamental rights in Malaysia.

The act presumes guilt over innocence, which is not how a justice system is supposed to function. It also denies a detained person’s access to lawyers, and this is completelyand utterly unacceptable.

- Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni  - 

The Prevention of Terrorism Act, or POTA, allows suspects to be first detained for a maximum of 59 days before being brought before a Prevention of Terrorism Board. The board may then order a further detention of up to two years, which may be extended at the board’s recommendation. 

“This is a dressed-up Internal Security Act, which took over a decade to abolish. Now, a similarly repressive piece of legislation is sending Malaysia back to the dark ages. The law is allowing any suspected individuals to have their freedom and liberty taken away even before they are found guilty of any crime. This is a serious blow to human rights in Malaysia.

”POTA allows for the restriction of a suspect’s place of residence and that a suspect be fitted with an electronic monitoring devise – severely curbing the freedom of movement. Travel restrictions may also be imposed while access to communications facilities including using the Internet may also be denied for renewable periods of up tofive years.

“All decisions are made by the Prevention of Terrorism Board and cuts out the possibility for a judicial review on any and all of the board’s decisions. This is a gross injustice and has no place in a democratic country like Malaysia. Although POTA has been passed by the Dewan Rakyat, it must not be gazetted for use by the minister as the act is in serious violation of international human rights principles and the rule of law,” Shamini said. 

Proposed Amendments to the Sedition Act

A further sign of the erosion of human rights in Malaysia was the introduction of harsher penalties under the proposed Sedition (Amendments) Act 2015.

“The denial of bail is a questionable move, usually reserved for suspected offenders of the most serious crimes like murder. Equating dissent to murder is at best,” Shamini said.

“Of late, we have seen how the Sedition Act was used to clamp down on the freedom of expression and assembly, targeting activists, opposition lawmakers, journalists and lawyers.

The introduction of stiffer penalties under the proposed amended act begs thequestion on whether there would be a further clampdown on dissent

“Malaysia has come under heavy criticism locally and internationally for its handling of critical voices. Rest assuredly, the strengthening of the Sedition Act, as well as the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act will bring forth further international condemnation on Malaysia’s rapidly shrinking space for fundamental rights,” Shamini said. 

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