SUHAKAM & The Bar Council must investigate possible human rights violations at Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu Rally
We, the Centre for Human Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) and Young Professionals (YP) note with concern media reports that the Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu rally or otherwise known as the #Merah169 rally that was initially reported as being approved and allowed to go ahead by the relevant authorities, are now being disrupted by the same.
We understand that police have made arrests made of at least two individual rally participants and that the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) have fired water cannons at participants particularly within the vicinity of Petaling Street.
We reiterate that the peaceful assembly is a right guaranteed by Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution to all Malaysian citizens and may only be restricted insofar as the limitations imposed by Article 10(2)(b) thereon permits i.e. where expedient for the preservation of national security and public order. In addition thereto, Article 20(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) clearly promotes and protects this right as being inherent to all human beings.
Given that the rally had initially been given the go ahead, we find it disconcerting and unwarranted that the police have taken it upon themselves to arbitrarily declare no-go zones and restrict the movement of protesters around the areas where the rally is taking place, and that the FRU has gone as far as to deploy water cannons at the protesters in complete disregard of their right to peaceful assembly.
In this regard, we further note that two public bodies interested in the protection and promotion of human rights in Malaysia, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) established pursuant to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 and required by Sections 4(2)(c) and 4(4) to investigate human rights abuses with reference to the Federal Constitution and the UDHR and the Bar Council established pursuant to the Legal Profession Act 1976 and required by Section 42(1)(a) to uphold the cause of justice without fear nor favour have omitted, neglected and/or failed to protect the abovementioned right to peaceably assemble with respect to this particular demonstration by doing nothing to prevent the abovementioned incidents from occurring or otherwise ensure the authorities do not in any other way overstep their powers in their supervision of the same.
This is manifest in SUHAKAM’s press statement of 15 September 2015 qualifying its support for the rally by cautioning against the supposed expression by its organisers of so-called racist ideas where non exist, and by the Bar Council’s abject failure to monitor this rally and offer pro bono services of legal protection and counsel as it has done for past rallies, in particular those organised by the Bersih movement.
We believe that had SUHAKAM affirmed without qualification the right of all citizens, regardless of affiliation to hold a peaceful rally and had the Bar Council acted to safeguard participants at the #Merah169 rally by monitoring the same accordingly, incidents like those mentioned above and others could have been prevented.
We therefore condemn utterly and in the strongest terms the inaction and disdain shown by these two public, statutory bodies towards this rally as being in breach of their respective statutory mandates, a manifestation of selectivity in the activities they deem fit to defend as well as indicating a callous disregard for human rights. We demand their immediate apology in respect of the same and a further undertaking not to permit this omission to recur in the future.
We further demand that the incidents mentioned above, being in our opinion severe enough to amount to possible human rights violations committed by the authorities, be investigated by the two bodies immediately in line with their respective statutory duties to do so and a report be commissioned by each of these bodies in respect thereof, the contents of which must be made public.
CENTHRA and YP believe that respect for human rights in particular freedom of speech, expression and assembly is paramount in a constitutional democracy such as Malaysia and any attempts by any governmental authority at unlawfully and unconstitutionally limiting the same must be cautioned and fought against and there must be zero predilection in doing this if we are to advance as a society. To do otherwise would amount to selectivity, partisanship and bias and is not the way forward.
We hope that SUHAKAM and the Bar Council take note of their failure in this regard and take immediate steps to rectify their omission accordingly.
Press Statement by AZRIL MOHD AMIN, Chief Executive, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) and FAIDHUR RAHMAN ABDUL HADI, Founder, Young Professionals (YP)