First arrests under Malaysia’s oppressive new security law

The Malaysian authorities must immediately release or formally charge two Malaysian men now detained under a repressive new security law, Amnesty International said.

Early on Thursday afternoon, police arrested Yazid Sufaat and his co-worker Mohd Hilmi Hasim at a cafeteria in Kuala Lumpur, for allegedly promoting terrorist activities.

It was the first known arrest under the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), which was introduced last April. 

“Sufaat and Hasim are being detained arbitrarily under a deeply flawed law that is not in line with international human rights standards,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Isabelle Arradon said.

SOSMA, which replaced Malaysia’s previous Internal Security Act (ISA), fails to meet international human rights standards in several key ways – including by allowing police to detain suspects incommunicado for 48 hours, increasing the risk of torture, and by allowing detention without charge or access to courts for up to 28 days.

Police have so far refused to disclose where Sufaat and Hasim are being held. Sufaat was previously held without trial for more than seven years under the ISA until his release in 2008

“The Malaysian authorities should immediately disclose where Sufaat and his co-worker are held, and give them access to legal counsel,” said Arradon. 

“This first arrest under SOSMA shows that the Malaysian authorities have just replaced one oppressive regime with another. The two men should immediately be charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence and brought to court, or else released. 

“The Malaysian authorities should not compromise human rights in the name of security. They should immediately revise or repeal the new security law.”

Despite the repeal of the ISA, it is still reportedly being used to detain some 23 people without trial in Malaysia.