PETALING JAYA: Activists for migrant rights have expressed shock over the deportation of Pakistani journalist Syed Fawad Ali Shah to his home country.
Speaking to FMT, spokesmen for North-South Initiative, Reporters Without Borders and Fortify Rights accused Putrajaya of going against its international obligations.
North-South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira said Malaysia had violated the principle of non-refoulement and the government had put Fawad’s life in danger.
The principle of non-refoulement guarantees that no one is returned to a country where he faces torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“This is a black mark in our track record and it looks bad for Malaysia,” Pereira said.
“It is a joke that Malaysia wants to take over the management of refugees and asylum seekers when it can’t even get this right.”
Yesterday, home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail disclosed that Fawad was deported last year following a request from Islamabad.
He said Pakistani authorities claimed Fawad was a former policeman facing disciplinary problems although Malaysian media had described him as a journalist,
Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific director Daniel Bastard said Malaysian authorities had blatantly breached international obligations towards Fawad, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) card holder.
“The way the administration treated the case and the home minister’s late confirmation is like an admission of guilt,” he said.
“This is a major blow to those in Malaysia who believe in a free press for all.”
Bastard also said the United Nations and Malaysia’s international partners must know that the country had lost all credibility and respect for the rule of law.
John Quinley of Fortify Rights said any journalist being targeted for his or her work should be ensured protection by Malaysian authorities.
He said Fawad’s deportation was an example of the authorities knowingly breaching Malaysia’s international obligations to protect refugees.
Lawyer P Waytha Moorthy said the grounds for Fawad’s deportation could not be justified as he had already been assessed by the UNHCR office in Malaysia.
He urged Saifuddin to order the immigration director-general to explain the deportation.
“The DG must also confirm whether the authorities allowed Fawad the right to counsel or legal representation and challenge in court the decision of the immigration department and government to deport him,” he said.
Fawad, 41, who had been in exile in Malaysia for more than 10 years, had been missing since Aug 23. He had sought asylum in Malaysia for alleged persecution in Pakistan over articles published in several English dailies there related to government corruption.