Malaysia: Continued persecution of Anwar Ibrahim symbolizes crackdown on human rights
On the second anniversary of the politically-motivated conviction of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Amnesty International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
“The ongoing political persecution of Anwar Ibrahim is symbolic of Malaysia’s crackdown on human rights. He has unjustifiably spent the past two years behind bars on trumped-up charges intended to silence him and end his political career,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
At the last elections, the ruling coalition lost the popular vote but managed to cling on to power. Anwar Ibrahim’s five-year imprisonment makes it impossible for him to contest the next general elections, due to take place by 2018.
Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction was a major blow to human rights as the Malaysian government escalated its attacks on civil society.
Using a slew of draconian, colonial-era laws, the Malaysian government has cracked down on citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly, both online and offline. This has included the harassment, intimidation, arrest and prosecution of activists who have called for Anwar Ibrahim’s release. The authorities have invoked these laws and national security as a pretext to choke dissent, muzzle government critics, and prevent people from taking part in peaceful protests.
The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak had vowed to repeal Malaysia’s Sedition laws but has instead invoked them with even greater frequency.
The famed cartoonist Zunar, who has criticized the conviction and imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim, faces numerous charges of sedition for tweeting and allegedly insulting Prime Minister Najib Razak and is barred from leaving the country.
In November, Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih movement, was placed in solitary confinement for 11 days after leading a peaceful protest of thousands of people calling for accountability for corruption.
“Every Malaysian has the right to peacefully take part in the affairs of their government, including criticizing people in power. These rights are guaranteed to them by international human rights law,” said Josef Benedict.
“The longer Anwar Ibrahim and other prisoners of conscience remain behind bars, the clearer it becomes that the government has no interest in upholding its international human rights obligations and commitments and instead wishes to use its power to silence anyone it disagrees with.”
Two years have passed since the Federal Court, the apex court of Malaysia on 10 February 2015 upheld the conviction of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, de facto leader of the Malaysian opposition and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment.
Anwar Ibrahim has also exhausted the review process legally available for him to challenge this decision and he is continuing to engage the pardons process.
Activists Sim Tze Tzin, Maria Chin Abdullah, Mohd Fariz Abdul Talib Musa, Mandeep Singh, Adam Adli, Zunar as well as Mohd. Fakhrulrazi were all arrested, investigated, charged or convicted under various Sedition laws or Peaceful Assembly laws, for calling for Anwar Ibrahim’s release.
At any one time, there are around 10 million people in prison worldwide.
An estimated 3.2 million people in prison haven’t yet had a trial.
One lawyer per 50,000 people in most developing countries.