Respect right to assembly

THE Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) regrets to note that in the process of dispersing the 15,000-strong crowd marching in protest of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Kuala Lumpur on 1 Aug 2009, the police used tear gas and water [cannons] excessively, which also affected bystanders.

The day of the public assembly ended with the police reportedly arresting [nearly] 600 people and 44 juveniles aged between 13 and 17 years old at different locations in the city.

In this regard, Suhakam strongly maintains its stand that the people have the right to participate in peaceful assemblies. Suhakam has consistently urged the government to consider and take into account the recommendations made by the commission on freedom of assembly, as enunciated in the reports of the Kesas Highway and KLCC Bloody Sunday Public Inquiries.

It is therefore recommended that in the event where police find it necessary to control or disperse a crowd, proportionate and non-violent methods should be invoked.

In addition, it is also Suhakam's grave concern that the children who were arrested during the rally were handcuffed, detained and held under remand together with the rest of the adult protesters.

Suhakam would like to draw the government's attention to its obligations to observe and protect the rights of children as stipulated under the Child Act 2001 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Consequently, in view of the situation that took place last weekend, Suhakam urges the government to seriously consider Suhakam's recommendation made since 2003 to repeal the ISA due to its nature of detention without trial, which is clearly an infringement of the principles of human rights.

Suhakam would like to reiterate its stance that the ISA should be repealed and replaced by a new comprehensive legislation that balances national security and human rights, [such as] a specific Anti-Terrorism Act to deal with anti-terrorism and mass acts of violence.

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun