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2b: Human Rights


Respect for human rights and the Rule of Law is regarded as the core objective in

this policy area. The proposals in this section relate to concerns such as deaths in

custody, torture, the death penalty and oppressive laws—all symptoms of human

rights abuses within a broader institutional framework that fails to recognise the

inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of the People. Reforming the

prison system, drug policies and legal aid, as delineated below, are some structural

attempts towards creating a more just society. To safeguard human rights, and to

establish accountability of government leaders wielding public power, Malaysia

must function within a system of certain and foreseeable law, where everyone is

treated by all decision-makers with dignity, equality and rationality in accordance

with human rights standards and principles, and to have the opportunity to

challenge decisions before independent and impartial courts through fair


I: Legal Aid

The current legal aid system is limited and must be reformed to create a fairer

and more just system for all.

1. Expand the capacity of the Legal Aid Bureau to represent all aspects of

social and natural justice.

The current legal aid system is limited in scope and beneficiaries. Many working-

class people cannot afford lawyers. The system must be reformed to achieve

social and natural justice for all. Genuine, qualified professional lawyers must be

employed and deployed for the Legal Aid Bureau.

(Uli Jon Rock, Proposal 2B-1)

II: Custodial Torture & Deaths, Police Shooting Deaths

The current Section 30(3)(a) of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009

is an example of the current legislation providing a window for potential abuse,

as it allows for interrogations to last “from day to day”. This is mental torture

and in violation of human rights, as in the case of the late Teoh Beng Hock, a

political aide who died under mysterious circumstances at the Selangor Malaysian

Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters after such an interrogation.

The unending cases of custodial deaths, regardless of the victims’ nationality, are

a violation of the right to life (Article 5 of the Federal Constitution). From 2013

till April 2016, a reported 721 individuals had died in police custody. Failure to

provide the necessary medical attention to detainees is also a concern that must

be addressed.

2. Censure and punish all police personnel found guilty of directly or

indirectly causing the death of a detainee.

The Attorney General must also act upon any findings and recommendations

from relevant bodies.

(Kenneth Cheng, SUARAM, Proposal 2B-2)

3. Enact an anti-torture law to penalise enforcement officers who

physically or mentally torture detainees.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-3)

4. Set up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission


(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy Proposal 2B-4; Kenneth Cheng, SUARAM, Proposal 2B-2; Rule of Law (ROL) Cluster, CSO Platform for Reform & The Tamil Foundation/EWRF, Proposal 2B-5)

5. Ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or

Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-6)

6. Reform the Lockup Rules Act 1953 to ensure detainees’ right to health.

This includes access to medical treatment and medicine, and the presence of

medical personnel in all lock-ups and places of detention.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-7; Kenneth Cheng, SUARAM, Proposal 2B-2)

7. Introduce a Coroners’ Court Act to strengthen the role of coroners.

(Kenneth Cheng, SUARAM, Proposal 2B-2)

8. Amend the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission Act to limit the

period of interrogation.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-8)

III: Human-rights-compliant Development Planning

Development planning, especially involving megaprojects, should take into

account the rights and interests of affected communities, such as the indigenous

peoples, urban settlers, farmers and fisherfolk. There should not be any evictions,

and enforcement officers involved in development planning must respect,

protect and fulfil human rights in their approach. Public, private and

government-linked corporations must adhere to human rights standards.

9. Enforcement agencies and officers involved in development planning

must go through human rights training.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-9)

10. Alongside the environmental impact assessment, to include a human

rights impact assessment in all development planning projects.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-10)

IV: Transitional Justice

The government must be accountable and committed to address human rights

violations of the people by providing redress to all victims who have suffered the

repercussions of arrests under the now defunct Internal Security Act, emergency

laws, May 13 incidents, Sedition Act 1948, including death in custody victims.

11. Enact a transitional justice law as an apology from the government to

all victims of human rights violations.

The law will also provide compensation for victims and survivors of human

rights violations committed by the government.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-11)

12. Establish a human rights museum.

This is to remember the sacrifices made by those who were involved in and had

contributed to the struggle for human rights in Malaysia.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 2B-11)

V: Accountable, Just & Transparent Government

There is deep-seated racism intersecting with human rights issues of indigenous

land-ownership, deaths in custody, and abuse of refugees and migrants; there is

hatred and violence against the LGBTIQ+ community; and the latest challenge is

the pandemic, which has intensified economic inequality in the country and

fuelled the divisiveness.

13. Elected representatives who profess the Christian faith must promote

the core values of love, mercy and grace, especially as espoused in


They should be accountable not only as tax-paying citizens but also as fellow


(Progressive Malaysian Christians, Proposal 2B-12)

VI: Death Penalty

The death penalty was introduced to Malaya by the British colonialists as the

punishment for murder and later made a discretionary penalty for drug

trafficking. Under the Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad administration, the Malaysian

government launched an offensive against drug abuse and imposed a mandatory

death sentence for drug trafficking in 1983. The reformist government that was

elected to power in 2018 amended the Dangerous Drugs Act (1952) to allow

judicial discretion for life imprisonment and whipping instead of the death

penalty. The government also placed a moratorium on the death penalty towards

fully abolishing it. Currently, 33 offences carry this punishment, including 12 for

which it is the mandatory sentence.

14. Immediately repeal current laws with a mandatory death penalty by


15. Abolish the death penalty in its entirety in the long term.

(ROL Cluster (Amnesty International Malaysia), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 2B- 13)

VII: Oppressive laws

Laws that permit arbitrary detention and the abject denial of the right to fair trial

have no place in a society. These include the Security Offences (Special

Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA), the

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA), and the Dangerous Drugs (Special

Preventive Measures) Act 1985.

16. Repeal all detention-without-trial laws.

17. Enact alternative security laws or measures that comply with

international human rights standards.

(ROL Cluster (SUARAM), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 2B-14)

VIII: National Drug Policy Reform

As of December 2021, there were 52,078 inmates in the 39 prisons, an

overcapacity of 18.4%, according to the Prisons Department. When drug users

are jailed, they lose access to employment and education. When their addiction is

not fully addressed, which is difficult to do during their short prison sentences,

there is a much higher chance of recidivism, further offences and being jailed


18. Set up a multi-sectoral task force to review related laws and policies

such as the Drug Dependants (Treatment & Rehabilitation) Act 1983.

The task force must include health and legal professionals, academia, the relevant

agencies and NGOs.

19. Distinguish the harms caused by different types of illicit drugs, and

between drug use and trafficking.

20. Approach drug use as a health and social issue, and improve access to

treatment, counselling, social and welfare support.

21. Remove punitive drug policies that pose a barrier for evidence-based

drug policy.

(ROL Cluster (Malaysian CARE), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal

IX: Prison Policy Reform

Almost 63% of inmates are in prison for drug offences, according to the Prisons

Department in December 2021. The approach to drug users must be focused on

rehabilitation. This would reduce the problem of overcrowding in prisons and, in

turn, improve the living condition of the prisoners.

22. Introduce alternatives to imprisonment for drug offences.

For example, suspended sentences, home detention for remand with electronic

monitoring tools, probation, restorative justice.

23. Implement pre- and post-release programmes for each prison.

This includes more government halfway homes and subsidised private and faith-

based halfway homes.

24. Ensure adequate mental health programmes for staff and inmates.

This includes screening, counselling and peer-support groups.

25. Provide equal access for prisoners living with HIV to classes,

programmes, jobs, parole, and ensure there are no access gaps in

medication or treatment.

26. Make available access to low-risk civil service jobs for former inmates.

27. Remove the ban on National Higher Education Fund Corporation

loans for former inmates.

28. Ensure all prisoners who are Malaysian citizens have their MyKad

upon release.

29. Upgrade the prison facilities.

As of 2020, 14 out of 39 facilities were over 50 years old, according to the

Prisons Department. Several of these prisons are still using the bucket system

today, including those in Muar, Taiping and Penang. According to prison

officials, nothing can be done to upgrade the bucket system in these “heritage”

and old prisons unless they move to a new building.

(ROL Cluster (Malaysian CARE), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal

X. Freedom of Assembly

The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 impedes the exercise of fundamental freedoms

that are guaranteed in the Federal Constitution and protected by international

human rights law. The law imposes overly burdensome requirements on

assembly organisers that make effective freedom of assembly nearly impossible.

30. Amend the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 to only impose reasonable

restrictions consistent with the international human rights standard

governing assemblies.

i. Ensure restrictions are legal, reasonable, proportionate and necessary or

expedient relating to such democratic rights in the interest of the security

of the Federation or any part thereof or public order/health, including

the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons.

ii. Decriminalise children and non-citizens who participate in peaceful


iii. Shorten the notification period to submit prior notice to authorities

regarding the organisation of any peaceful assembly.

iv. Introduce and legally recognise the concept of spontaneous assembly.

(Firdaus Husni, Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR), Proposal 2B-17)
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Laura Sui San
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
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