Repeal Sosma in its entirety – Malaysian Bar Association | What you think

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MARCH – The Malaysian Bar welcomes Parliament’s rejection of the Government’s motion to extend the effective period of Section 4(5) of the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“Sosma”) by five years ).[1]

After July 31, 2022, police no longer have the power to detain a suspect for up to 28 days for investigation without being brought before a magistrate for removal under Subsection 4(5) of Sosma. This is a step in the right direction, as article 5, paragraph 4, of the Federal Constitution requires that anyone arrested be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours and not be detained again without the authorization of the magistrate.

By rejecting the government’s motion, Parliament signaled that 28 days of detention without judicial review is contrary to the rule of law. The lack of judicial oversight allows the executive and the police to abuse this power against human rights defenders and political dissidents, as was the case in the case of Maria Chin Abdullah, who was detained and placed in solitary confinement.[2] We are also reminded of the detentions and prosecutions of Dato’ Sri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Matthias Chang.[3] None of these individuals have been involved in violent behavior amounting to a threat to public safety that would warrant arrest under Sosma. These individuals were the subject of Sosma because of their political beliefs and activities.

Inspector General of Police (“IGP”) Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani reportedly said he was aware that there are other provisions in the current law allowing for detentions for alleged acts of terrorism and offenses against the state under the Penal Code through remand orders.[4] The Malaysian Bar Association echoes the views of the IGP that existing laws provide our law enforcement agency with sufficient legal basis and authority to deal with such activities without having to resort to the laws on preventive detention, which are anachronistic and draconian.

Even though parliament rejected the government’s motion, Sosma as a whole remains problematic. Most of its provisions go beyond stopping or preventing threats to national security and have impinged on a defendant’s trial and the powers of the judiciary. SOSMA significantly shifts the objective bar in favor of the prosecution by altering the trial process or establishing rules of evidence that would otherwise protect an accused’s right to a fair trial.

The Malaysian Bar Association has consistently urged the government to repeal the Sosma in its entirety. National security is not flames to restrict our fundamental freedoms.

Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term, should seize this opportunity to uphold its commitment to the protection of human rights by repealing SOSMA and other preventive detention laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (“POTA”) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (“POCA”).

Human rights and national security are not mutually exclusive or in opposition. Instead, they are interdependent and complementary. The Malaysian Bar therefore reiterates its clear call on the government to repeal Sosma, POTA and POCA. Let there be no more attempts to relaunch debates on preventive detention laws.

*This statement is submitted by Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, President from Malaysian Bar.

** This is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian courier.

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