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Asia-Pacific
Malaysia PM 'must end abuses'
Human Rights Watch calls on Najib Abdul Razak to introduce reform agenda
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2009 10:44 GMT
Najib has promised to focus on reforms
and "uphold civil liberties" [EPA]

A human rights group has called on Malaysia's new prime minister to implement a fresh human rights agenda and end what it says were the abuses committed by previous administrations.

In an open letter, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Najib Abdul Razak should take specific measures to begin the process of bringing domestic law, policy and practice in line with international human rights standards.

Najib became Malaysia's sixth prime minister on April 3, succeeding Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a carefully stage-managed transition of power.

In its letter, HRW welcomed Najib's stated intention "to uphold civil liberties" and demonstrate "regard for the fundamental rights of the people of Malaysia", and called for the immediate ratification of core UN human rights treaties.

The group also urged Najib to abolish the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA), and to try fairly or release those currently detained under the law.

The ISA, a colonial-era law first used against communist insurgents in the 1950s, allows the government to detain anyone for an initial two-year period without charges, and to extend their detention indefinitely.

The rights group recommended specific reforms in the four key areas of arbitrary detention, censorship, police brutality, and the protection of migrants.

'Great opportunity'

"Prime Minister Najib has a great opportunity to reverse the abusive policies of the past," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW.

"It's deplorable that Malaysians continue to face arbitrary detention, censorship, and threats to their lives from unaccountable police."

HRW also called on Najib to abolish RELA, the government-funded People's Volunteer Corps, whose members have been accused of numerous rights violations against foreign migrants.

Rights groups have accused the volunteer group, whose members wear military-style uniforms, of using vigilante tactics to beat and intimidate foreign workers, many of whom are legally in Malaysia.

"It's time the Malaysian government delivered on promises to show 'regard for the fundamental rights of the people of Malaysia', so that it is more than just a pretty sound bite," added Pearson.

Source:
Agencies
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