Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah should be released from her detention under a Malaysian law meant for security offences, the United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHRO) has said.
Its Asia spokesman Jeremy J Laurence said the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) against Maria was worrying.
“The use of Sosma — Security Offences Act — against Maria Chin Abdullah — is very concerning. Security legislation should not be used against peaceful demonstrators.
“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Maria Chin Abdullah and other activists,” he said in an email response to Malay Mail Online this week.
He said the UNHRO also deplores the arrest of nine activists ahead of the Bersih 5 rally on November 19.
Maria was arrested on November 18, on the eve of the electoral watchdog’s peaceful assembly. She continues to be detained without trial, under Sosma, while police investigate her under Section 124C of the Penal Code that criminalises the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Commenting on Maria’s reported solitary confinement, Laurence highlighted the UN’s Basic Principles on the Treatment of Detainees, noting that efforts to push for either the abolition of solitary confinement as punishment or the restriction of its use should be taken and encouraged.
He cited the same principles which calls for the strict prohibition of “all disciplinary measures constituting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, including closed or solitary confinement or other forms of punishment that may result in physical or mental health being compromised.
The UNHRO also highlighted the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners — also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules — in particular its Rules 44 and 45.
Rule 44 describes solitary confinement as confinement for 22 hours or more than a day without meaningful human contact, while Rule 45 states, among other things, that solitary confinement shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort and for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.
The Malaysian Bar noted this week that Maria’s reported detention conditions were ”oppressive, inhumane and degrading”, adding that it appears to have gone against the Nelson Mandela Rules and highlighted its Rules 13, 14(a) and 21.
Maria, who is said to suffer from hypertension, osteoarthritis and high cholesterol levels, is reportedly being kept in a small windowless cell at an undisclosed location with the lights on 24 hours and without a mattress to sleep on.
Maria’s family had on Tuesday filed a habeas corpus application seeking for her release. The application challenging her detention under Sosma will be heard in the Kuala Lumpur High Court next Tuesday.
Police yesterday denied that Maria was treated badly and said her detention was in line with lock-up rules and the Prisons Act 1995.
Source : IDA LIM@The Malay Mail Online