International team to document GE freedom abuses

An international team of observers is in Malaysia to conduct a fact-finding mission on the situation of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the context of the 13th general election.

The three-member team organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday and will be here for five days.

The team's report will be presented to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.

Kiai is expected to raise Malaysia's situation with the Human Rights Council and in the UN General Assembly sitting in October, and the report will also be used in the forthcoming UN Universal Period Review on Malaysia.

"There are a lot of groups that have looked at electoral abuses, but we are focusing on these two specific issues (freedom of expression and peaceful assembly), we are looking at abuses prior, during and post GE 13," Joses Kuan (left), who works for Forum Asia, said in an interview yesterday.

"We are hoping to provide some regional context and comparisons on this issue, there appears to be a similar pattern of abuses throughout the region,” Kuan said.

Forum-Asia, which represents 47 organisations from 16 countries, recently held similar fact finding-missions to Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Maldives, and will soon be heading to Cambodia and Pakistan.

Other members of the mission are Sri Lankan legal rights advocate Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, who won the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award in 2007, and Professor Kyong Whan (right) of South Korea who was the former chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

The team will meet with representatives from NGOs such as Bersih, senior officials from the police department as well as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low.

They will also be meeting the Malaysian Bar Council as well as student activist Adam Adli and Seri Setia assemblyperson Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who were recently charged under the Sedition Act and Peaceful Assembly Act respectively.