Following considerable political uncertainty and a decline in the human rights situation in the country, Malaysia’s next government must make the respect and protection of human rights a priority, Amnesty International said before nationwide elections this weekend.
“Malaysian authorities must ensure full respect for human rights before, during and after the forthcoming elections. Human rights have been under renewed attack, with peaceful demonstrations and freedom of expression online subject to increased restrictions,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Southeast Asia Researcher for Amnesty International.
In 2022, police have investigated organisers of public rallies, and filed charges against those who express opinions on royalty, race or religion or are critical of the authorities.
“The next government should end the use of repressive laws which have had a chilling effect and limit Malaysians’ right to express themselves freely online or offline,” Chhoa-Howard said.
The next government should end the use of repressive laws which have had a chilling effect and limit Malaysians’ right to express themselves freely online or offline.Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Southeast Asia Researcher for Amnesty International
Amnesty International has published a Human Rights Agenda outlining eight priority issues that those elected to the next government must address.
Apart from the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, priority issues also include better protections for refugees and migrants, effective and transparent investigations into deaths in police custody, and abolishing the death penalty.
In the run-up to elections, there was a standout development, with the government’s promise to abolish the mandatory death penalty. Though bills were tabled in Parliament, elections were called before amendments could be passed.
“We urge the next government to seize the historic opportunity to abolish the mandatory death penalty as a first step towards full abolition, and urgently table amendments once elected.”
“These amendments should include alternative punishments that are in line with international human rights standards. At the same time authorities should initiate an individual judicial review of each of the over 1,300 existing death row cases. The moratorium on executions should remain, pending full abolition.”
There has been renewed outcry around the government’s inhumane policies and punitive actions towards refugees and migrants, including the deportation of over 2,000 people back to Myanmar in collaboration with the Myanmar military. Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities are holding thousands of people, including refugees and asylum seekers, in indefinite detention.
“The new government must immediately end all forced deportations of people to Myanmar and ensure they are given the opportunity to claim asylum,” Chhoa-Howard said.
“Malaysia’s new government and leaders must adopt a consistent policy on Myanmar, instead of only criticizing the military while quietly deporting people back to a country which routinely jails thousands and tortures dissidents.”
Malaysia’s new government and leaders must adopt a consistent policy on Myanmar, instead of only criticizing the military while quietly deporting people back to a country which routinely jails thousands and tortures dissidents.Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Southeast Asia Researcher for Amnesty International
In addition, Amnesty International is urging the authorities to grant immediate access to detention facilities to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Those who wish to make asylum claims should be released, and the government should work together with UNHCR to end the system of indefinite detention.
“Under the next government, upholding the rights of minorities including migrants, refugees, LGBTI and Indigenous peoples must be given special attention, rather than be subject to relentless attack.
“We hope that the country’s new government and leaders will take the opportunity to reset the current approach, and ensure that all people in Malaysia can freely exercise their human rights. After a period of neglect, human rights should be at the forefront of the government’s agenda.”
Malaysia will hold its national elections on 19 November 2022 for 222 Parliamentary seats. The country has endured considerable political turbulence over the past two and a half years after the Pakatan Harapan coalition fell apart and political infighting within replacement governments ensued.
For countries around the world, Amnesty International routinely publishes a human rights agenda for election candidates to highlight areas which the organization considers should be at the top of government leaders’ priorities should they be elected. Amnesty International previously published a human rights agenda for candidates ahead of the 2018 elections.