Annual Report: Malaysia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Malaysia 2011

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  • In August, the government announced that it would nearly double the size of RELA (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat), a civilian-volunteer force which used its policing power to arrest migrants and refugees for immigration offences. RELA officers often extorted money from migrants and refugees, and sometimes beat them. The government also reinstated RELA officers in immigration detention facilities, after withdrawing them in 2009.
  • Conditions in immigration detention centres remained poor. In response to a recurrent lack of water at the Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre, an estimated 500 Burmese asylum-seekers protested in June by going on hunger strike.
  • In October, seven immigration officers and two foreign nationals were reportedly arrested for alleged involvement in human trafficking. However, no criminal procedures were initiated; instead they were detained without trial under the ISA.

Torture and other ill-treatment

  • The authorities regularly caned people for a host of offences, including immigration violations. Caning was provided for more than 60 criminal offences. In one week alone, scores of migrant workers were deported to Indonesia after being caned for immigration offences.
  • In February, three women were caned, for the first time in Malaysia's history. The women, all Muslims, were convicted of extramarital sex and caned under Shari'a provisions, near Kuala Lumpur. In April, the first woman sentenced to caning, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, had her 2009 sentence of six strokes commuted to community service.

Death penalty

Courts sentenced at least 114 people to "hang by the neck until dead", according to reports in the state-owned news agency Bernama and other Malaysian media. The authorities did not disclose the number of executions carried out.

More than half of known death sentences were for possession of illegal drugs above certain specified quantities, an offence which carried the mandatory death penalty. Defendants in such cases faced charges of drug trafficking. Under the drug laws, they were presumed guilty unless they could prove their innocence, which contravened international fair trial standards.

Citizens of other ASEAN nations accounted for one in six known death sentences. This included seven from Indonesia, three each from Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, and two from the Philippines.