Asylum must not be denied

(The Star) – The deportation of a Saudi Arabian journalist to his home country, where he faces charges for alleged religious crimes, is turning out to be yet another global PR debacle for Malaysia.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The UDHR entitles all citizens of the world to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11 states that those charged with a penal offence have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial in which he or she must have all the guarantees necessary for defence.

It assures that no one shall be held guilty of any offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence under national or international law at the time it was committed.

Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Under Article 14, everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Seen from the standpoint of such assurances in the declaration, the deportation of Saudi Arabian journalist Mohammad Najeeb A. Kashgari, 23, to his home country – where he faces persecution for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad on Twitter – is turning out to be yet another global PR debacle for Malaysia.

Mohammad Najeeb, who is also known as Hamza Kashgari, was deported on Sunday after being held for three days upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport enroute to New Zealand.

The Jeddah-based newspaper columnist and blogger fled Saudi Arabia after his comments fuelled a gush of fury in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The criticisms have not only come from the usual Human Rights groups but also from former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the authorities should have studied the case of the Saudi Arabian journalist thoroughly before making the decision to send him back.

“If it causes the loss of life, we have to see the justification,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), meanwhile, has slammed the repatriation as a breach of international human rights rules and norms.

Stressing that Suhakam was “greatly disappointed” and “shocked” that the deportation took place, its vice-chairperson Khaw Lake Tee said it would have severe negative impacts on Malaysia.

Human Rights Watch senior Middle East researcher Christoph Wilcke has accused Malaysia of being “complicit in sealing Hamza Kashgari’s fate”.

“Saudi clerics have already made up their mind that he is an apostate who must face punishment,” he said.

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