Human Rights has called for Malaysian government to urgently repeal the “draconian 2012 Security Offenses Special Measures Act” (SOSMA), following the detention of 12 people, including two ruling coalition politicians, for more than two weeks in October 2019 for alleged links to a defunct Sri Lankan armed group, which the rights group said highlights due process violations under the law.
Under SOSMA, certain offenses under the Penal Code are categorized as “security offenses” for which different rules of evidence and trial procedure apply.
“The Malaysian government has not only failed to fufill its campaign promise to repeal the draconian provisions in SOSMA, but it’s still arresting people under this deeply flawed law,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director.
“The government should also implement the pledges in its election manifesto to repeal other legislation allowing for indefinite detention without trial, notably the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015.”
Many of the SOMA provisions violate international human rights standards on the right to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said, including those charged with SOSMA security offenses that cannot be granted bail. Even after a suspect has been acquitted, the public prosecutor can apply under SOSMA for the accused to remain detained pending an appeal, which the courts must grant.
SOSMA also allows for “protected witnesses,” whose identity is concealed from the accused and their counsel, to give evidence. This violation of international fair trial standards makes it difficult for the accused to challenge the credibility of witnesses and mount an adequate defence of the charges, according to HRW.
Furthermore, SOSMA provides that “any statement by an accused whether orally or in writing to any person at any time” can be admitted into evidence, with no exception for evidence obtained under duress.
Procedural rules that jeopardize basic human rights and fair trial guarantees not only increase the likelihood of rights violations, they decrease the likelihood that those responsible will be discovered and punished.
Those accused of terrorist acts should be charged and tried according to the regular rules of evidence and procedure to ensure their right to a fair trial. As the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 notes, violations of human rights are among the conditions “conducive to the spread of terrorism,” even though they can never excuse or justify terrorist acts, HRW said. (Source: HRW)