NGO groups say deportation of 1,086 Myanmar nationals akin to contempt of court

PETALING JAYA: The deportation of 1,086 Myanmar nationals by the Immigration Department despite a court order to stay their repatriation until Wednesday (Feb 24) contravened international human rights and humanitarian laws, says civil society groups.

In a statement, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) questioned whether such a move is akin to contempt of court.

"Following the failure of the Immigration Department in obeying the High Court order, what is the next court action?" they questioned.

The statement was issued on Wednesday by a coalition of NGOs including Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), North South Initiative, G25, Women's Aid Organisation, and the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns.

It added in the statement that defying a court order is akin to contempt of court and it is an offence under Article 126 of the Federal Constitution.

"We believe that it is very important for the courts to uphold justice as an independent body and ensure that the Immigration Department and the Home Ministry is responsible towards the action of those that can be seen as defying court orders, ” said the NGOs.

"We urge the courts and the judiciary to take the appropriate approach since this issue involved matters pertaining to the security of vulnerable communities and the integrity of the judiciary," they added.

The stay order is to allow for a hearing of a judicial review application on Wednesday following a legal challenge mounted by two human rights groups - Amnesty International and Asylum Access.

On the deportation, Human Rights Watch's Asia legal advisor Linda Lakhdhir said the government must investigate the Immigration Department's deportation of the 1,086 Myanmar nationals.

“Malaysia’s immigration authorities have shown a blatant disregard both for the basic rights of Myanmar nationals and an order by the Malaysian High Court," she said in a statement on Wednesday (Feb 24).

The deportation plans came about after the Myanmar military offered to send three navy ships to pick up its citizens at Malaysian immigration detention centres after seizing power in a coup on Feb 1.

Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said the deportation of the Myanmar nationals is morally wrong and inhumane, adding that such a move by the Immigration Department could be tantamount to disrespect towards the judicial system.

"They should be held responsible for blatantly defying a court order," said Sevan in a statement on Wednesday (Feb 24). There are also reports that suggest some are even children. Deporting them would cruelly separate them from their parents who are still residing in Malaysia," he added.

In a statement by Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud on Tuesday (Feb 23), he said that a total of 1,086 Myanmar nationals were deported with the cooperation of the Malaysian Armed Forces and the Myanmar Embassy.

Khairul Dzaimee said those who were deported were Myanmar nationals and they are not of Rohingya descent or asylum seekers.

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