Amnesty International (AI) has slammed Malaysia's continuing repression of opposition leaders using the Sedition Act even as regional leaders gather in Kuala Lumpur for the Asean Summit.
"Amnesty International calls on the Malaysian authorities to refrain from bringing charges against opposition politician (former PSM secretary-general) S Arutchelvan, solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
"This move by the authorities adds to the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in the country, which in recent months has targeted politicians, activists and students for their peaceful dissent.
"With the eyes of the world currently focussed on Malaysia, who is hosting the Asean leaders meeting, the authorities have continued their relentless campaign of repression to persecute individuals who speak out against the state," said AI's regional campaigns deputy director Josef Roy Benedict in a statement.
Arutchelvan was informed on Thursday that he would be charged under the Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act next Monday.
This is believed to be related to a PSM statement which condemned the court judgment on former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy case.
"AI regards Anwar Ibrahim as a prisoner of conscience, who has been targeted solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release," added Benedict.
Against universal values
He said Malaysia should stop using the Sedition Act and a range of other repressive laws to criminalise peaceful dissent.
"While international human rights law permits restrictions to the right to freedom of expression, these restrictions must be provided in law and meet strict tests of necessity and proportionality.
"The overly broad provisions of the Sedition Act, and the use of them to silence dissent, is inconsistent with international human rights law," he said.
Benedict reminded Prime Minister Najib Razak of the latter's 2012 promise to abolish the Sedition Act.
However, the promise was not kept, and instead a further strengthening of the law was undertaken and has drawn criticism from the UN.
"In April 2015 UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the Malaysian government to withdraw the proposed amendments to the Sedition Act, warning that the new provisions would seriously undermine freedom of expression and opinion in the country," he said.