Malaysia’s Senate should reject the government’s proposed legal changes that would undermine the rights of criminal suspects, Human Rights Watch said today. Amendments to the country’s Code of Criminal Procedure passed the lower house of parliament on May 19, 2016, and will be debated by the Senate in the session starting on June 13.
The proposed amendments are being made at a time when the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has intensified its crackdown on criticism by civil society activists, Human Rights Watch said. The code changes would limit the discretion of judges to impose more lenient sentences, allow for previously inadmissible testimony by unidentified witnesses and written testimony, and allow the denial of bail for a broader range of political and other offences.
“The proposed amendments are part of a troubling trend of the Malaysian government undermining the right to a fair trial during periods of political turmoil,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “The Senate should reject amendments that undermine the rights of the accused or judges’ authority to protect rights.”
Najib, who gloried in portraying himself as a progressive reformer when he came into office, has spent the last year attempting to strip away everyone else’s basic rights in Malaysia, in order to protect himself from his own criminal actions.
As a political leader he has shown not one shred of concern for his duties towards those who placed their trust in him: perhaps because he knows they didn’t; the opposition won most of the votes at the last election, despite his massive cheating and bribery.
Najib is cementing a dictatorship, where protection of the individual against arbitrary action by those who have grasped the levers of authority is being swept away. Civilised societies have learnt to value such protections and to evolve basic individual rights, not least because none of us can be confident that one day it might not be ourselves or a loved one, who unexpectedly falls foul of those in power.
Indeed, it might be Najib. He has done enough wrong to find himself in very hot water some day. He might wish then that he had kept those basic rights in situ.