PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen has asked why the home ministry is treating children like hardcore criminals by detaining them under the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
He explained that these two laws are too harsh for children and are supposed to be used against serious offenders like terrorists or hardcore criminals.
“This is shocking. Surely there must be a better way for the authorities to handle these children who commit criminal offences. You can charge them under ordinary laws.
“Poca has detention without trial, which means somebody can be locked up for two years and another two years without evidence. It is similar to the Internal Security Act (ISA).
“As for Sosma, even though there is a trial, pending the trial, the child is not able to get bail. This can go on for many years,” he told FMT.
Paulsen reminded the authorities that they must not forget that Malaysia is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the welfare and best interests of children should always be at the forefront when dealing with crimes involving children.
He said resorting to harsh or preventive detention laws like Poca and Sosma clearly signified a failure in the administration of justice where children can be locked away without any trial or proper evidence being tendered to prove their guilt.
He strongly urged the women, family and community development ministry to seriously engage with the home ministry and Attorney-General’s Chambers on how best to handle such cases as these children deserve better than to be treated like the most dangerous terrorists or hardcore criminals.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had earlier said 17 children had been arrested under Sosma since it was gazetted and enforced.
As for Poca, he said 142 children had been arrested under this law.
He was responding to a question in the Dewan Rakyat from Klang MP Charles Santiago who asked for the statistics on the number of children currently detained under these laws.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) also strongly condemned the existence and application of laws that permit detention without trial and demanded the immediate release of all minors detained under Sosma and Poca.
In a statement, Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy was shocked that the Malaysian government considers it necessary for minors to be subjected to abuse under Sosma and Poca.
“We urge the government to provide an immediate answer to the public with regards to the condition of detention these minors are subjected to.
“We want clear answers as to why it is necessary for these minors to be detained under security provisions and not subjected to trial in the Court for Children, as outlined in Section 83(1) of the Child Act 2001.
“We are calling for all minors detained under Sosma and Poca to be released immediately and a royal commission of inquiry be established to investigate the unconscionable decision to allow minors to be detained without trial,” he said.
He reminded the government that under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Malaysia is a party to, minors have the right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing.
This is not a mere international standard that the government can set aside on a whim as it is given force through the Child Act 2001 in Malaysia, he added.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner Gerald Joseph said it is better to approach children in a child-friendly manner and encourage the juvenile or child to see where they went wrong.
“These two laws, Poca and Sosma, are difficult because they allow detention without trial.
“If they are detained under these two laws, then they do not have facilities for the child-friendly juvenile court system.
“So it is better to charge them in a normal court because the court will help them,” he said.