Categorised | Letters to the Editor

The injustice of the ISA

AMNESTY International Malaysia views with concern the statement by Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Ismail Omar published on 23 Feb 2009 on the relevance of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA).

Amnesty regrets that the Deputy IGP, being the guardian of public interest and rights, has given blanket approval to the most draconian and unjust law in Malaysia. His statement does not reflect the aspiration of the Malaysian public and is misleading.

Public protests and critics of the ISA have risen to an unprecedented level, re-emphasising the concerns about the arbitrariness of the ISA.

The ISA is an unjust law as it provides for an indefinite detention without trial purely at the pleasure of the police and the Home Minister. Previous arrests of Selangor exco Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Sin Chew Jit Poh journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and many others show the potential for this unjust legislation to be used at any time against anyone without just grounds or reasons.

The ISA, through a series of amendments, has incrementally extended executive powers, while stripping away the judicial safeguards designed to protect against their abuse. Now, once a person is detained under the ISA, he or she has no effective recourse to legal protection, nor any opportunity to establish their innocence of the accusations leveled against them.

As such, the ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law.

The broad terms of the ISA also fail to provide any precise definition or criteria for determining which individuals pose a danger to state or public security, and a judicial explanation of what should be termed as a real threat to the public and the nation’s security. The executive has been given permanent, unfettered discretion to determine, according to their subjective interpretation, who, what and when a person or activity might pose a potential threat to national security or public order.

Amnesty International in the past has repeatedly called for the repeal of the ISA. For over 20 years the organisation has called for the immediate and unconditional release of scores of ISA detainees, whom it considers to be prisoners of conscience held solely for the peaceful expression of their political or religious beliefs. It has called for those detained to be either granted a fair, speedy and open trial, or else released.

The organisation has also raised persistent serious concerns about patterns of grave ill treatment, at times amounting to torture, of those detained under the law. The recent judgment in Malek Hussein’s case is a clear example of existence of torture and ill treatment during the first 60 days an ISA detainee is held under police custody.

Amnesty International Malaysia views that the ISA is irrelevant in addressing concerns of national security and is highly prejudicial to the development of human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

We urge the government to reconsider Suhakam’s proposal for the ISA to be repealed and replaced by a specific Anti-Terrorism Act as reported in its 2003 report titled Review of the Internal Security Act 1960.

Amnesty International also hereby notes that since Guantanamo Bay is now coming to a close, it is now time for the ISA and the Kamunting detention centre, both symbols of injustice and torture here in Malaysia, to be done away with.


Nora Murat
Executive Director
Amnesty International Malaysia
23 Feb 2009

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