Saturday, March 12, 2011

Malaysia – Continued criminalisation of Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) and the Human Rights Party

Since 1 March 2011, the Malaysian authorities have arrested some 54 members of the Hindu
Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) and its sister organisation, the Human Rights Party in what
appears to be a widespread campaign of repression and judicial harassment against the
organisations and their members. HINDRAF is a grassroots-based human rights advocacy group
working on promoting the rights of the Hindu and other marginalised communities in Malaysia.

The 54 individuals, who have all been released on bail, are charged with taking part in an “illegal organisation”, as a result of the authorities' continued refusal to process the organisation's request for registration. Furthermore, the National Secretary of HINDRAF, Mr P Ramesh, was also charged with possession of banners and documents that further the cause of HINDRAF, based on the aforementioned lack of legal recognition granted to the organisation.

HINDRAF was founded in December 2005 in order to lobby for the rights and religious freedoms of
minority non-Muslims in Malaysia. In 2006, HINDRAF extended its mandate to include other
human rights issues, including in relation to internally displaced and stateless persons, and
economic rights. The organisation submitted its first application for registration in January 2006,although this reportedly went unacknowledged by the Registrar of Societies. They submitted a second application in October 2007, which remains pending.

On 25 November 2007, HINDRAF organised a rally in Kuala Lumpur protesting against the
marginalisation of Malaysian Indians in which some 50,000 people reportedly took part.
Subsequently, the following month, a number of HINDRAF's members including Mr P Uthayakumar, HINDRAF's Legal Advisor, were arrested under the Internal Security Act, and held
without charge for 514 days, accused of having endangered national security through their role in organising the protest and having links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). HINDRAF's Chair, Mr P Waytha Moorthy, who was out of the country at the time, also had his passport revoked by the Malaysian authorities.

In October 2008, erstwhile Home Minister Mr Syed Hamid Albar announced that HINDRAF was
banned. However, no Court Order followed or accompanied this announcement and, thus,
HINDRAF continued its activities. In order to protect its volunteers, HINDRAF renamed itself
“Hindraf Makkal Sakthi” in 2008. Its legal representatives sent a letter of intent to register the organisation under this name on 2 October 2009; however, the Registrar of Societies has not
responded to this request.

Following his release from prison, P Uthayakumar founded the Human Rights Party, and submitted
the formal application for registration on 25 November 2010, which remains pending.

The most recent arrests relate to HINDRAF's attempt to organise a peaceful anti-racism
demonstration on 27 February 2011. The authorities prevented the demonstration from taking
place through widespread arrests and detentions as well as other forms of intimidation on the day of the demonstration.

Front Line believes that the continued criminalisation of members of HINDRAF and the Human
Rights Party is directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights and,furthermore, constitutes a transgression of their rights of free assembly and association as 1 guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Front Line urges the authorities in Malaysia to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against volunteers and members of
HINDRAF and the Human Rights Party, as it is believed that these charges solely relate to
their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their right to free assembly;

2. Take all necessary measures to ensure the prompt legal registration of HINDRAF and the
Human Rights Party;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry
out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Front Line respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally
Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights
defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw you attention to Article 5: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully; (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups; (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.”

Yours sincerely,
Mary Lawlor