Malaysian Government holding six members of opposition political party without charge

Malaysian Government holding six members of opposition political party without charge

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia –The Malaysian government is detaining six members of the opposition political party, Parti Sosialis Malaysia which is legally recognized in Malaysia, without charge under Malaysia’s preventative detention laws.

Six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia have been detained without charge under an Emergency Ordinance (Photo Courtesy of Blog for Change).
Six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia have been detained without charge under an Emergency Ordinance (Photo Courtesy of Blog for Change).

The six Parti Sosialis Malaysia members were pre-arrested and continue to be held under the Emergency Ordinance after allegations were made that they were the “main movers” of the pro-democracy rally that took place on July 9. The rally was organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, Bersih, to express a need and desire to reform voting laws and mend corruption in voting.

According to lawyers for the detained six members, the detainees have been held in solitary confinement and continually and aggressively interrogated. The detainees have also been blindfolded while in detention and also while in transportation to meet with their lawyers. In addition, the police have not yet made it clear whether the detainees will be permitted to attend the Habeas corpus hearing that was originally scheduled for July 22 but has been rescheduled for August 5.

Initially, the six opposition party members were charged under Section 122 of the Penal Code after being accused of preparing to wage war against the king. This allegation was based on shirts owned by the six members that had portraits of former Communist Leaders on them.

Although the six members were released on bail on July 2, they were then re-arrested under the Emergency Ordinance.

Malaysia’s Emergency Ordinance permits the police to detain, at their own discretion, any person that they find to be a threat to public order for 60 days. Under the Emergency Ordinance, the home minister is permitted to extend the detention every two years for an additional two years.

Since the six members were detained, over 520 police reports have been filed calling for the release of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia members and the number of police reports being filed is expected to increase. Other forms of protests include candlelight vigils and the circulation of petitions calling for the release of the “PSM6”.

Family members have also filed reports to allege mistreatment of the detainees. Such allegations arise from failure to provide medical attention to those complaining of pain, refusal to provide the food necessary for certain medical conditions and forced lie detector tests.

The six Parti sosialis Malaysia members being detained are: Michaeal Jeyakumar Devaraj,  member of parliament; Sukumaran Munisamy, Central Committee member; Letchumanan Aseer Patham,  Sungai Siput branch secretary; Choo Chon Kai,  international coordinator; Sarasvathy Muthu,  national deputy chairwoman; and Sarat Babu Raman,  youth chairman.

 For more information, please see:

Voices of America –Rights Group Demands Release of Malaysian Rally Oganizers – July 21, 2011

The Malaysia Star – Counsel: PSM 6 Not Detained Over Red Links – July 21, 2011

Free Malaysia Today – 522 Police Reports and Counting – July 20, 2011

Human Rights Watch – Drop Charges against Activists Exercising Basic Rights – 20 July 2011

Free Malaysia Today – ‘PSM 6 Will be Freed if Detention is Political’ – 18 July 2011

Latest Egypt Protest Ends with Violence; Up to 231 Injured

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt The Tahrir Square protests against Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that have been ongoing since July 8 took a violent turn yesterday.  Military forces, supplemented by army loyalists who threw stones and Molotov cocktails, opened fire on demonstrators as they made their way toward the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense in Cairo’s Abbasseya district.  As many as 231 were injured, and two protesters are alleged to have been kidnapped.

Protesters march toward SCAF headquarters in Cairos Abbasaya district on Saturday
Protesters march toward SCAF headquarters at the Ministry of Defense building in Cairo's Abbasaya district on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of AFP Photo)

At least 4,000 people were marching in order to request a clear schedule of plans to fulfill the goals of the revolution that drove former president Hosni Mubarak from power in January.  They are calling for limits on the SCAF’s power and a purge of all government and state institutions, including banks and the media, of corrupt members of the previous regime, among other demands.  But right now, the concern among those present is that the revolution has stalled.

“The military council is against the revolution, and we’re here to put pressure on them to stay with the revolution,” said Ahmed Al-Sharawi, who has been camping out in a traffic circle for over two weeks. “If we go home, the revolution will fail.”

The activists were unable to reach their destination after the army set up barricades of troops, barbed wire, and tanks to block Abbasseya Bridge.  The military surrounded the area, doing nothing to interfere and also making departure impossible. While the army fired live rounds in an effort to disperse the crowd, civilian loyalists climbed onto the roofs of nearby buildings to throw rocks, broken bottles, and Molotov cocktails at the assembled crowd.  Others, some of whom were armed with knives and machetes, made direct attacks on the protesters.  This march, unlike prior, peaceful protests, soon turned into a melee that lasted two hours before riot police fired tear gas into the fray.  Once the activists scattered, a new demonstration began within an hour.

The incident comes on the aftermath of statements made by the SCAF on Friday.  The military council accused the April 6 group, one of the larger protest organizations, of creating a scism between itself and the public.  “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces urges the public to exercise caution and not to be drawn into this suspicious plot that aims to undermine Egypt’s stability,” the statement said.

But statements such as these are not taken seriously by the protesters.  One participant, Ahmed Hassan, considered the SCAF to be the problem by acting as an instigator of violence.  “How should I trust this army to protect our country when they are turning our own fellow Egyptians against us with statements like these?” he asked.

Despite the recent bloodshed, protesters remain strong.  “We don’t want food or money,” said Al-Sharawi.  “If we get all of our demands, Egypt will be richer than America. The National Association for Change (NAC), another protest organization, has called for a one million man march on August 12.

For more information, please see:

Egyptian Gazette — Egypt’s protesters still camped in Square –24 July 2011

Egyptian Gazette — 1m-man march in Egypt on Aug 12 –24 July 2011

Al-Masry Al-Youm — 143 hurt at clashes in Cairo, two activists reportedly kidnapped — 23 July 2011

Daily News Egypt — Armed men attack thousands marching to ministry of defense; 55 injured — 23 July 2011

Daily News Egypt — Protesters march on defense ministry — 23 July 2011

New York Times — March against Egypt’s Military Collapses into Violence — 23 July 2011

Impunity Watch — Protests continue as new government takes shape in Egypt — 17 July 2011

Rebel Control of Somali Regions Contribute to Famine

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

DADAAB, Somalia – On Wednesday, the United Nations (“UN”) declared a famine in the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of southern Somalia.  Al-Shabab rebels control these regions and put a ban on foreign aid in 2009, claiming the foreign aid workers were Western spies and Christian crusaders.  More recently however, Al-Shabab allowed limited humanitarian aid to reach these communities.  Al-Shabab, one of the most active al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, is a militant Islamic organization, designate by the United States as a terrorist association. On Tuesday, the United States pushed the Shabab rebels to permit foreign aid workers to provide services for the people freely.  The United States attributes the region’s famine to the controlling behavior of these rebels.

Child suffering from the famine in Somalia.  (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
Child suffering from the famine in Somalia. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Across East Africa, ten million people face hunger resulting from a severe drought affecting the regions. The current famine is the result of a combination of regional conflicts, drought, and poverty, leaving tens of thousands of Somalis fleeing Somalia for Kenya or Ethiopia.  Somalia last experienced a famine nineteen years ago.

For the past two decades, Somalia has lacked an effective government.  During this time, Al-Shabab rebels have taken power in many regions and their continuing rise is alarming to many outside observers. The UN reports 80% of the nearly half a million malnourished children in Somalia in the rebel-controlled areas.

In their efforts to control incoming foreign aid, Al-Shabab have attacked and kidnapped foreign aid workers and refuse to permit aid agencies to operate.  Additionally, they have imposed restricted conditions for foreign aid agencies to provide services.  In 2010, the World Food Program (“WFP”) removed their workers because the rebels harassed and threatened them.

Presently, although a new dialogue between the rebels and the WFP is underway, Salman Omer, WFP Deputy Country Director, said, “[Our] relief effort [is] still hampered by insecurity, problems of access and lack of resources.”  The UN Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) made its first airdrop of emergency supplies in two years last week.

Throughout this process, Al-Shabab may gain by allowing humanitarian aid into the country.  Since the United States needs to cooperate to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, it will face more difficulty targeting Al-Shabab leaders in a joint CIA-Defense Department initiative.  Somali watchers also observed the rebels may be trying to regain support in areas where they were on the defensive.

Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, commented “Al-Shabab’s activities have clearly made the current situation much worse…[its] current policies are wreaking havoc and are not helping Somalis living in the south-central part of that country.”

For more information, please see:
CNNAid agencies deal with terrorists to reach Somalia’s starving21 July 2011
BBCUN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle20 July 2011
Financial TimesUN declares famine in rebel-held Somalia20 July 2011
IOL NewsSomali rebels urged to allow aid trucks in20 July 2011

Australian Citizen Confesses to Burma War Crimes

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia– Htoo Htoo Han has come forward claiming that he is responsible for hundreds of deaths in his native land of Burma.  Han claims that he was commander of the so called, “death squad” during the pro-democracy uprisings in the late 1980s where about 6,000 people were killed.  He now tells the Sydney Morning Herald that eight of the men in his regime are currently living in Australia.

Htoo Htoo Han holds up an image showing him as a lieutenant in Burmas military regime and posing as a student activist.  (Image Courtesy of The Australian)
Htoo Htoo Han holds up an image showing him as a lieutenant in Burma's military regime and posing as a student activist. (Image Courtesy of The Australian)

The Australian government says that they will look into Han’s claims to determine if he is telling the truth.  A spokeswoman for the Burma Campaign Australia told the news source, The Australian, “Whilst these claims are serious they should not be taken as verbatim, and a thorough investigation into the validity of these claims is required.”

Han is an Australian citizen who came from Burma as a refugee in 1996.  Ironically enough, he has been involved in campaigns aimed at highlighting human rights abuses in Burma, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.  He lives in Brisbane with his wife and three children.  Even his wife does not believe his recent confessions.  Han is aware that he may never see his children again, but he hopes that they understand.

Han claims that he wants to go to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) because “[his story] is very complicated,” as reported by The Australian.  However, the ICC can only prosecute offenses that took place after its creation in 2002.

Han admits to executing at least 24 individuals himself, and further claims that others were killed under his direct command.  As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Han appears to be taking full responsibility for many of the atrocities committed 23 years ago.  “Maybe they kill 100 or 150 because I order them to do that.  It’s not their fault, my fault.  If they didn’t kill, they get killed too,” he said.

So far, Han has not released the names of the eight other men who worked under his control.  He has told authorities that two of the men are in Sydney, four are in Melbourne, one in Perth, and one is in Queensland.  None of the other men have come forward publicly.

After 23 years, Han is coming forward because of his guilty conscience.  “I did it, I am a war criminal,” Han said, “now I want to release what I carry inside for 20 years,” according to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

As of now, Australia is taking Han’s confession seriously and an investigation is underway.

 For more information, please see:

The Australian — Burmese “Hitman” Htoo Htoo Han Seeks ICC Hearing — 20 July 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — Death Squad Members in Australia, Refugee Says — 20 July 2011

Democratic Voice of Burma — Australia Police to Assess Burma ‘War Criminal’ — 18 July 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — Australian Admits War Crimes in Burma — 18 July 2011