"We shouldn’t condone the deprivation of human rights in the name of
national security. And also, we shouldn’t condone the deprivation of
human rights in the name of war on terror." - Chang Lih Kang, 17 March 2006
Responding to the UN’s call to close Guantánamo, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah A. Badawi on 20 February 2006 demanded that the US shut down the detention centre. "It is the opinion of many people that the camp should be closed because of the photographs and stories about it, that showed it is a prison where torture is carried out", he was quoted as saying.
Malaysian human rights groups called on the Prime Minister to apply the same principle to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Malaysia, where detainees are held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) without charge or trial. Chang Lih Kang, an activist from Malaysia with the Abolish the ISA Movement, said: “He is a leader who practices double standards”.
Under the ISA, detainees can be held for up to 60 days in secret locations and in solitary confinement, often in a windowless cell where they lose all sense of time and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Detainees have been assaulted, forced to strip, deprived of sleep, food and water, told that their families would be harmed, and subjected to prolonged aggressive interrogation to force confessions or obtain information.
After two months, the government can issue a two-year detention order and transfer the detainees to the Kamunting Detention Centre, where they can remain indefinitely without ever being charged or tried in a court of law.
Since 2001, the Malaysian government has tried to justify the ISA as necessary to combat terrorism. But the ISA was enacted more than 40 years ago and successive Malaysian governments have been using it to promote security at the expense of human rights.
In the context of the “war on terror”, hundreds of individuals alleged to be Islamist militants have been arrested on suspicion of links to terrorist networks. At least 70 of them remain detained under the ISA, many of whom have been detained since 2001.
“Emergency” laws in Malaysia disregard human rights safeguards contained in the Malaysian Constitution and international human rights law. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, AI and other NGO have repeatedly called for the abolishment or reform of the ISA to ensure respect for human rights.