Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rights watchdog (FIDH) lobbies for Hindraf 5 release

Mkini- Rahmah Ghazali May 28, 08 5:42pm

An international human rights watchdog today urged the government to immediately release the five Hindraf leaders presently being detained under the Internal Security Act.
The watchdog also wants the government to repeal the colonial era law which provided for detention without trial.

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), in a report released today, said that the five Hindu Rights Action Force leaders should be released immediately and unconditionally as their detention was arbitrary.

FIDH also urged the government to similarly release all other ISA detainees who are being held without valid legal charges.The five Hindraf leaders - P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and T Vasantha Kumar - were detained on Dec 13 last year for allegedly being a national threat for organising talks and demonstrations highlighting the plight of the Indian community here."I perceive personally ISA is a risk to Malaysian security because if there are people who have committed terrorist offences, we have to know what they did."But in fact, it is all unknown," said Laurie Berg, an Australian lawyer, who was present during the release of the report.

She added that everyone has a right to know when someone was detained under the ISA and on what grounds they were being detained."(However) it's impossible to know why anyone is detained under ISA and we might have to just speculate the reason," Berg told the press conference held at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur today.According to an official figure, some 70 people are presently being held under the ISA.

Appearance before a judge vital

The report also said that the physical and psychological integrity of the five Hindraf leaders should be guaranteed in all circumstances.It also added that the five should have access to their legal counsel, medical assistance and family members.In recent months some of the Hindraf leaders, especially Uthayakumar, have complained that they were not being afforded proper medical treatment.The Federal Court had recently thrown out the appeal by five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders to be released from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA).The ruling meant the five have almost exhausted their legal battle and will have to remain detained under the security law.

Berg said that the report prepared by the Paris-based organisation would be submitted to the Malaysian government, the European Union and the United Nations.Apart from repealing the Act and releasing all ISA detainees, the watchdog also recommended that:
All arrested under the ISA should be brought before a judge to be informed of the charge(s) being preferred against them.
The detainees must be allowed access to their lawyers and family.
Everyone must be tried in conformity with international fair trial standards.‘

Not interfering'

Berg also brushed aside questions when asked if the report would be perceived as interfering in Malaysian affairs."We are just trying to encourage the government to do what it has told the international community it will do in respecting the human rights," said Berg."What we can do is to get Malaysians to see what we believe is their own interest to abolish ISA and also to create more secure and prosperous nation."The press conference was hosted by Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) and was attended by the families of the detainees, including Vasantha Kumar's wife K Vickneswary.