KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the government to repeal the Sedition Act and review provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act.
It said there had been an alarming escalation of arrests and prosecutions under the Sedition Act.
As for the Peaceful Assembly Act, it said intimidation and unjustifiable arrests of assembly participants still occurred during certain public assemblies.
It called for a review of the law in three areas: prohibition of street protests and the organisation of assemblies by persons below 21 years old; strict requirements for 10-day notification prior to the assembly; and specified prohibited places of assembly.
These were among nearly 30 recommendations covered in its latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Stakeholder Report released today.
Speaking at a dialogue on the report with civil societies, Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said the UPR was created to receive critical feedback on human rights issues, and to review and adopt the good practices that other countries have tried.
He said the first UPR for Malaysia was released in 2009 and the second in 2013.
On the issue of preventive detention, Suhakam called for a review of laws to repeal provisions that provide for detention without trial.
It named the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma).
On the death penalty, Suhakam noted a positive development in the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act in December 2017 which removed the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, subject to certain conditions.
However, it pointed out that the death penalty still exists under the Dangerous Drugs Act, Penal Code, Firearms Act, Kidnapping Act, Water Services Industry Act and Strategic Trade Act.
Suhakam recommended that these laws be reviewed to remove the death penalty.
“In the interim, (the government should) apply a moratorium on the use of the death penalty,” it added.
It urged the government to ensure that all places of detention meet the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, and asked it to allocate an adequate budget for their upkeep.
It said the conditions in detention centres currently fall short of the standard minimum rules and alleged that a large number of detainees were ill-treated.
To prevent ill-treatment, it recommended that all interrogations by authorities be video recorded.
The UPR report welcomed the amendment to the Child Act in 2016 which removed corporal punishment for child convicts.
Schoolchildren were not left out of the report, with Suhakam recommending that caning as a form of disciplinary punishment in schools be abolished.
On the rights of migrant workers and refugees, the report noted an unsuccessful pilot project for Rohingya refugees.
“Undocumented migrant workers, refugees and stateless persons remain among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses,” it said.
Suhakam recommended amending the Employment Act to provide greater protection for migrant workers and ratifying the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention.
Malaysia should also accede to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its protocol, and extend access to employment to other refugees, it added.
The UPR report also touched on the rights of indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, rights of women and children, the right to health and education, and the eradication of poverty and raising of standard of living.
It noted that the government had not shown much progress in acceding to the six international human rights treaties.
These are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers (ICPRMW), International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ECPPED), Convention Against Torture (CAT), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICEFRD) and the relevant optional protocols.