Death threat: Outcry heartening
by Chin Oy Sim
The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), secretariat to the coalition of Malaysian NGOs known as Article 11, is encouraged by civil society’s response to the recent death threat against human rights advocate Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.
Imtiaz, president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam), has apparently been targeted due to his role as the Malaysian Bar’s watching brief lawyer in Lina Joy’s court appeal to seek the right to remove the term ‘Islam’ from her identity card. He was also a panel speaker in each of Article 11’s four public forums on the topic of ‘Federal Constitution: Protection for All’.
We are heartened that the condemnation of the death threat comes from diverse civil society groups that straddle both sides of the discourse on the freedom of thought, conscience and belief and religion. The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), the Muslim Professionals Forum and Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), alongside with All Women’s Action Society (Awam), the Bar Council, Sisters in Islam and International Movement for a Just World, have lent their voices to the chorus of disapproval.
In addition, the International Commission of Jurists, based in Geneva, has written to the prime minister urging that the government ensure Imtiaz’s protection, investigate the matter and take appropriate action.
We commend the actions that have been taken and urge civil society – both individuals and groups – to speak out and advocate for the protection of human rights defenders like Imtiaz. Suaram has alerted various UN special rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Freedom of Religion, Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and Independence of Judges and Lawyers, as well as the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.
Copies of Suaram’s call for urgent action have been sent to the prime minister, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz, opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, Suhakam Chairman Abu Talib Othman, Bar Council chairman Yeo Yang Poh and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail.
As the e-mail message that posted the death threat to an e-mail group was apparently sent from a corporate email account, the Malaysian Civil Liberties Society (MCLS) Protem Committee has alerted the company to this possible misuse of its e-mail facilities. The company has been responsive. It stated that it takes such matters very seriously and that it has implemented disciplinary action based on the findings of its investigation.
Imtiaz has lodged a report with the police, who have classified the matter as criminal intimidation. We trust the police will undertake the necessary investigation into the threat and take action against those responsible.
WAO is troubled by the mounting intolerance towards differences of opinion in Malaysia as reflected by events of late and culminating most recently in the overt threat against Imtiaz. WAO is committed to upholding the rule of law and urges others to do the same.
The writer represents the Women’s Aid Orgnaisation, a member organisation of Article 11, a coalition of Malaysian NGOs.
Source: The NST, Malaysia
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