Urgent Interventions

Continued arbitrary detention and solitary confinement of Chairperson of Bersih 2.0


New information

MYS 001 / 1116 / OBS 096.2

Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment /



November 28, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) andFIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in thefollowing situation in Malaysia.

New information:

The Observatory has beeninformed by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) about the continued arbitrarydetention and solitary confinement of Chairperson of Bersih 2.0[1],Ms. MariaChin Abdullah.

According to the informationreceived, on November 22, 2016, Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah filed a habeas corpusapplication to the High Court to challenge her detention under the SecurityOffences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA)[2],which authorities invoked after she was arrested under Article 124C (‘attemptto commit activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy’) of the CriminalCode on November 18, 2016 (See Background information). The hearing isscheduled for November 29, 2016.

Under the SOSMA, Ms. Maria ChinAbdullah can be detained for up to 28 days before being charged and withheldlegal representation for two days. Authorities held her incommunicado andwithout legal representation for the first 48 hours of her detention. Accordingto lawyers and family members who have since been able to visit, Ms. Maria ChinAbdullah is in solitary confinement in a 2.5m x 4.5m cell without a window orproper ventilation. She has to sleep without a pillow or blanket, and two lightbulbs are kept on 24 hours a day.

On November 21, 2016, Ms. MariaChin Abdullah’s son, Azumin Mohamed Yunus, filed a police report against herinhumane treatment in detention.

Authorities have confirmed thatMs. Maria Chin Abdullah would remain in custody for 28 days under the SOSMA.Inspector General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, said that during the raid on theBersih 2.0 office on November 18, the police found documents “detrimental to parliamentarydemocracy.” He denied her detention under the SOSMA was related to the Bersih 5rally[3].

The Observatory expressesconcern over Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah’s health condition as she suffers fromhypertension, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis, which require medication.

On November 20, 2016, policereleased Mr. MandeepSingh, Bersih 2.0 Secretariat Manager; Mr. S. Arutchelvan, Socialist Party of Malaysia(PSM) member; Messrs. Ronnie Liu, Andy Wong, and Lee Khai Ming, Democratic Action Party (DAP)members; Mr. AnthonyLoke, DAP Member of Parliament (MP); and Mr. Mhamad Luqman Nul Haqim and Ms. Anis Syafiqah, student leaders, pendingfurther investigation.

The Observatory welcomes therelease of Messrs. Mandeep Singh, S. Arutchelvan, Ronnie Liu, Andy Wong, LeeKhai Ming, Anthony Loke, Mhamad Luqman Nul Haqim, and Ms. Anis Syafiqah, whowere also arrested on November 18 (See Background information).

However, the Observatorycondemns the arbitrary detention of Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah and calls on the authoritiesto immediately and unconditionally release her.

Until she is released, theObservatory also urges the authorities to provide Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah withadequate medical treatment and ensure that she is detained in decent and humaneconditions.

Background information:

In October and November 2016,Bersih 2.0 members, including in particular Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah, weresubjected to numerous acts of harassment and threats.

In October, Ms. Maria ChinAbdullah received a number of death threats. On October 17, 2016, she receivedviolent messages on her mobile phone that threatened her, her sons, Mr. MandeepSingh and former Co-Chair of Bersih Ms. Ambiga Sreenevasan, and warned her of reprisals ifshe proceeded with organising the November 19 Bersih 5 rally. The messagesclaimed to be from the ‘Islamic State Malaysia’.

On November 11, 2016, Ms. MariaChin Abdullah received photoshopped images of herself, her three sons, Mr.Mandeep Singh and Ms. Ambiga Sreenevasan, being beheaded by ISIS on her mobilephone. She subsequently lodged a police report on the incident.

Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah has alsobeen subjected to harassment by the authorities. On October 29, 2016, she wasarbitrarily arrested under Article 11 of the 1984 Printing Presses and PublicationsAct for distributing Bersih 5 leaflets in Kota Marudu, Sabah State. She wasbrought to Kota Marudu district police headquarters for questioning andsubsequently released on bail. Several other individuals have also beenthreatened with arrest under the 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act andthe 1948 Sedition Act for distributing the same leaflets.

On November 4, 2016, Ms. MariaChin Abdullah was briefly detained for questioning at the Bukit Aman policeheadquarters over allegations that Bersih 2.0 received foreign funding, whichthe police claimed was in violation of Article 124C of the Criminal Code(‘attempt to commit activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy’). She wasreleased on the same day pending further investigations. During questioning,the police officers told her that she would be summoned after the November 19rally.

Authorities have also threatenedBersih 2.0 with legal action in relation to the November 19 Bersih 5 protest.On November 3, 2016, Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi warned Bersih 5organisers that they would face legal action if the rally went ahead. Mr. Zahidclaimed Bersih 5 did not comply with the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act because therally venue was among the locations prohibited by the Act. Bersih 5 organisersmaintain that the planned November 19 rally complies with the legalrequirements under the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act, including the requirement tonotify the authorities 10 days before the demonstration.

In addition, other Bersih 2.0 membershave been threatened several times. In October 2016, a number of local Bersih2.0 coordinators were summoned by the police for questioning in the States ofJohor, Penang, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Perak, over a Bersih 5 convoy,which travelled from Melaka to Negeri Sembilan from October 6 to 8, 2016.

Bersih 2.0 members alsoregularly receive threats from the pro-government ‘red shirts.’ On October 8,2016, participants of a Bersih 5 convoy were attacked with eggs andfirecrackers, and physically assaulted. ‘Red shirt’ leader Jamal Yunos has saidthat they would continue to gather, legally or illegally, and use physicalforce against Bersih 5 participants.

On November 18, 2016, at about3pm, Bukit Aman police raided Bersih 2.0’s officein Petaling Jaya, Selangor State, for suspected violation of Article 124C ofthe Criminal Code (‘attempt to commit activity detrimental to parliamentarydemocracy’)[4].

Police officers prevented Bersih2.0 staff from leaving the office and stopped lawyers from entering thepremises. They arrested Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah and Mr. Mandeep Singh and tookthem to the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters for questioning. Thepolice also confiscated laptops, phones, and bank and payroll statements fromthe Bersih 2.0 office.

The arrests of Ms. Maria ChinAbdullah and Mr. Mandeep Singh and the raid on the Bersih 2.0 office occurredone day before the Bersih 5 rally.

On the same day, in separateincidents in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur, police took into custody sevenother Bersih 5 supporters: Mr. S. Arutchelvan, Socialist Party of Malaysia(PSM) member; Messrs. Ronnie Liu, Andy Wong, and Lee Khai Ming, DemocraticAction Party (DAP) members; Mr. Anthony Loke, DAP Member of Parliament (MP);and Mr. Mhamad Luqman Nul Haqim and Ms. Anis Syafiqah, student leaders.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Malaysia askingthem to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical andpsychological integrity of Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah, as well as ofall human rights defenders in Malaysia;

ii. Release Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah, immediately andunconditionally, as her detention is arbitrary since it only aims atsanctioning her legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment,including at the judicial level, of Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah as well as of othermembers of Bersih 2.0 and of all human rights defenders in the country so thatthey are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the UnitedNations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN GeneralAssembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(a), and12.2;

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights andfundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and other international human rights instruments signed or ratified byMalaysia.


  • Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak,Prime Minister of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8888 3444, Email:
  • Mr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of HomeAffairs of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8889 1613 / +60 3 8889 1610,
  • TanSri Razali Bin Ismail, Chairman of the Human RightsCommission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Fax: +60 3 2612 5620,;
  • H.E. Mr. Amran Mohamed Zin, Ambassador,Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in Geneva,Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 710 75 01, Email:
  • Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels, Belgium, Fax:+32 2 762 50 49, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representationsof Malaysia in your respective countries.


Paris-Geneva, November 28, 2016

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quotingthe code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. Theobjective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergencyline:

· Email: Appeals[at]

· Teland fax FIDH +33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Teland fax OMCT +41 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) is a non-partisan, civilsociety campaign created in 2006 and endorsed by over 60 Malaysiannon-governmental organisations, which seeks to reform the electoral system inMalaysia to ensure free, clean, and fair elections and to promote the respectof democratic rights.

[2] SOSMA was adopted in 2012 to maintain public order and safety in case ofterrorism or security offense.

[3] The Bersih 5 has been organised amid corruption allegations involving MalaysianPrime Minister Najib Razak, in connection with misappropriation of funds by thedebt-ridden state-owned investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

[4] Article 124C of the Malaysian Criminal Codestates that “Whoever attempts to commit an activity detrimental toparliamentary democracy or does any act preparatory thereto shall be punishedwith imprisonment for a term which may extend to 15 years.”

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