The government is responsible for providing detainees with their basic needs, Amnesty International Malaysia said today in highlighting activist Maria Chin Abdullah’s improper detention conditions.
AI Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu urged the authorities to comply with a set of universally-accepted guidelines by the United Nations (UN) on the treatment of detainees in its treatment of the head of polls reform group Bersih 2.0.
Shamini said Maria’s reported detention conditions ― including solitary confinement in a windowless cell at a location undisclosed to her family and lawyers, and with the alleged permanently lit room causing harmful sleep deprivation ― do not meet the minimum requirements under UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
“From previous global reports produced by Amnesty International on the use of torture by the authorities in different countries, depriving a prisoner of proper sleeping conditions including by not providing a mattress as we have seen in Maria’s detention, may constitute ill-treatment,” she said in an email response to Malay Mail Online today.
“It is the responsibility of the authorities to provide basic facilities for people in detention, and not up to those detained to need to request these facilities,” she added.
Maria was arrested six days ago and has since then been detained without trial through the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) ― which allows detention for a maximum of 28 days.
Maria’s arrest a day before the Bersih 5 rally is for an investigation under Section 124C of the Penal Code ― which criminalises the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy ― over Bersih 2.0’s alleged receipt of foreign funds.
Shamini highlighted today that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’s Article 9 states that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment, adding that laws which allow detention without trial “does the opposite and presumes guilt over innocence which is not the rule of law”.
She also cited the Asean Declaration of Human Rights’ Articles 12 and 14, which respectively say that “no person shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, search, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty” and that “no person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
“Maria’s detention is yet another example of Malaysia signing up to international human rights standards and failing to meet them,” she said.
Shamini went on to note that Sosma specifically states that no one will be arrested for their political activity or political belief and is a law strictly applying to matters related to public order and national security, but said this law is “widely drafted, vaguely worded and is open to abuse”.
“Maria has been declared an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience – someone who has been jailed because of her political beliefs without using or advocating violence,” she said, referring to the Friday declaration shortly after Maria’s arrest.
“Amnesty International Malaysia believes that Maria’s detention is part of a concerted, politically motivated attempt to intimidate and silence prominent activists and government critics. Maria Chin Abdullah must be released immediately,” Shamini also said.
Police yesterday denied that Maria was treated badly, asserting that she was being given the same treatment as other detainees and that her detention under Sosma was in line with lock-up rules and the Prisons Act 1995.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday that Maria’s solitary confinement is not mandated under Sosma and had depended on the detention facility available at the moment, besides saying that she had access to medical attention.
As for the lack of a mattress in Maria’s cell, Khalid said she had not made a request for it until a visit by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) yesterday.
Source : IDA LIM@The Malay Mail Online