PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called for the immediate release of Labour Day's anti-GST rally participants, describing the arrests as “unnecessary”.
Suhakam acting chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee said the participants had the right to take part in a peaceful assembly, which she said was critical to a functioning democracy.
"The Commission regrets the arrests of several participants following he peaceful assembly, and calls on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all detained persons," she said in a statement on Sunday.
She said although the police have an obligation to protect and facilitate peaceful assemblies, arrests and subsequent prosecution of participants of a peaceful assembly were not only unnecessary, but "wholly disproportionate".
On Friday night, 29 participants were arrested for unlawful assembly under the Section 143 of the Penal Code, including subsequent arrests of Opposition leaders and social activists.
Khaw said the mass arrests and prolonged detention periods were not in accordance with international human rights laws.
"The Commission repeats that the right to freedom to peaceful assembly in Malaysia is guaranteed in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 24 of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights,” said Khaw.
She said Suhakam calls on the authorities to ensure that no one is criminalised or subject to threats of or actual intimidation, reprisals or harassment for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Khaw added that the government needs to show its commitment to upholding international human rights standards by promoting a safe and enabling environment for all Malaysians to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
"The authorities must ensure that police personnel are adequately trained in relation to international norms governing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly," said Khaw.