Malaysia: End crackdown on Bersih activists
The Malaysian government must immediately end its crackdown on Bersih, a coalition of civil society groups campaigning for electoral reforms and against corruption, and allow civil society to peacefully exercise its human rights, Amnesty International said today.
A day before a major rally, the Malaysian police raided the offices of Bersih, arresting the chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and secretary Mandeep Singh. They also seized computers, mobile phones and documents. Activists from other sections of Malaysian civil society were also arrested.
“These arrests are the latest in a series of crude and heavy-handed attempts to intimidate Malaysian civil society activists and other human rights defenders. They must be released immediately and unconditionally, and tomorrow’s rally must be allowed to go ahead peacefully,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“Amnesty International considers all the activists arrested on Friday to be prisoners of conscience. They must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association peacefully without any interference, threats or harassment from officials or non-state actors seeking to provoke unrest.”
Ahead of Saturday’s annual Bersih rally, where members of Malaysian civil society come together to call for electoral reforms and an end to corruption, the authorities have carried out a series of arrests of well-known activists while non-state actors have attacked members of the movement.
Maria Chin Abdullah was arrested on Friday under Penal Code Section 124C, which penalises attempts to “commit activity detrimental to democracy”.
Mandeep Singh, Bersih’s secretariat manager, was arrested under Penal Code 147, which penalises rioting.
Anthony Loke, a Seremban Member of Parliament, was arrested under the draconian Sedition Act of 1948.
Ronnie Liu, a politician from Selangor state, was arrested under Penal Code 153, which prohibits “wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot”.
Luqman Nul Hakim Zul Razali, an activist from the SUARAM human rights organization, was arrested under Penal Code 147 for alleged rioting.