New Malaysian Security Bill encourages human rights violations

On 10th April 2012, the government of Malaysia submitted the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 to Parliament. This proposed law is meant to replace the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, effectively reducing periods of detention without judicial review from 60 to 28 days, and restricting detention only for ‘active investigation’ rather than solely on the basis of political belief or political activity. The ISA has given the police wide-ranging powers to indefinitely detain suspects of terrorism, espionage, or threats to national security, and has been used against political opponents. Although a relative improvement, the new bill’s permission of detention for 28 days without trial violates international standards of prompt judicial review and allows delays in access to a lawyer, which opens the door to abusive interrogations. It allows police to conduct searches without warrants and to unilaterally place electronic monitoring devices on individuals who have been released from detention. Those charged for security offences under this bill may also be denied bail, and defendants and their attorneys may have the identities of prosecution witnesses withheld from them so that cross-examination of witnesses against them is impossible. Use of information obtained from raids, investigations, or intercepted communications as evidence will also be permitted in court under the bill.

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