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Malaysia: Charges against students must be dropped


Malaysia: Charges against students must be dropped

Seven students arrested in June 2001 for participating in a peaceful protest against the Internal Security Act (ISA) had their trial resume today (14 July) after a number of postponements. Amnesty International expressed concern that the charges violate the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association and called for the charges against the students to be dropped.

"The right to 'freedom of opinion and expression' and 'peaceful assembly and association' are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). As a member state of the international community, Malaysia has acknowledged and is bound by the UDHR and thus must interpret, apply and amend its laws in a manner that demonstrates respect for these rights. Peaceful protest is not a crime but an example of the exercise of freedom of expression and association and a manifestation of an active and rights respecting society," Amnesty International said today.

Rafzan bin Ramli, Hermaan Saruddin, Dzulkifli bin Idris, Khairul Amar bin Mahmud, Ahmad Kamal bin Abdul Hamid, Wan Mohamad Sanusi bin Wan Mohd Noor and Nik Noor Hafizi bin Nik Ibrahim have been charged with attending an illegal assembly. If found guilty, they would face fines and up to one year in prison.

All seven have been unable to continue their studies as they were suspended from university shortly after being charged. The Universities and University Colleges Act (UCCA) specifies that any student who is charged with a criminal offence is to be immediately suspended and prohibits registration at another university without government permission.

"Amnesty International reiterates its call for the UCCA to be amended so that it does not allow for the penalization of students or academics exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and opinion. These seven students are not only being charged for exercising these freedoms, they are also being denied access to education, thus becoming victims of double injustice," the organization added.

Background

The seven young men studying at four different universities were arrested during a peaceful demonstration on 8 June 2001 in front of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. They were among about 400 students taking part in the demonstration and are reported to have held banners and chanted slogans denouncing the ISA, a draconian law allowing for indefinite detention without trial.

According to information received by Amnesty International, as the crowd began to disperse riot police moved in armed with batons and rattan canes. A student leader later reported that several students, including women, were beaten by the police. The seven students were arrested and held overnight. They were reportedly instructed to return to the station on three occasions before being charged with illegal assembly on 19 July 2001. One student, Rafzan bin Ramli, was initially expelled although that ruling was subsequently revoked.

For more information on the ISA see: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maabfV7aaZcjYbb0hPub/

For more information on the Police Act and UCCA see: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maabfV7aaZcjZbb0hPub/

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