Urgent Interventions

Sentencing of Ms. Lena Hendry for screening a documentary on the Sri Lankan civil war


MYS 001 / 0713 / OBS 064.7

Sentencing/ Judicial harassment


March23, 2017

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of theWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received newinformation and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation inMalaysia.

New information:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Ms. Lena Hendry, former ProgrammeCoordinator of the human rights NGO Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)[1].

According tothe information received, on March 22, 2017, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’sCourt sentenced Ms. Lena Hendry to a fine of MYR 10,000 (about EUR 2,130) or one year in prison for screening thedocumentary on the Sri Lankan civil war titled 'No Fire Zone: The KillingFields of Sri Lanka' four years ago (see Background information).

On February 21, 2017, following asuccessful appeal by the Prosecutor against her acquittal in 2015, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court had foundMs. Lena Hendry guilty of violating Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for the private screening ofthe documentary without prior approval fromMalaysia’s Film Censorship Board. She was facing up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to MYR 30,000 (aboutEUR 6,390).

TheObservatory condemns Ms. Lena Hendry’s sentencing, which merely aims at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities.The Observatory calls upon the Malaysian authorities to ensure that allhuman rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimateactivities in all circumstances without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.


Inthe evening of July 3, 2013, Pusat KOMAS, together with the KL & SelangorChinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC), organised a privatescreening of “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fieldsof Sri Lanka”, directed by British Director Callum Macrae, in KualaLumpur. About 30 minutes after the start of the screening, about 30 officialsfrom the Home Affairs Ministry, immigration, and police entered the ChineseAssembly hall and requested to check the film. The organisers negotiated withthem to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening was over.

However,after the screening, officials insisted on checking the identity cards of allparticipants before they left the venue. The Home Affairs Ministry requested acopy of the film, which was provided by the organisers. Authorities alsoordered the organisers - Ms. Anna Har, a member of Pusat KOMAS Board ofDirectors, Mr. Arul Prakkash, Pusat KOMAS Executive Director, and Ms. LenaHendry - to go to the Dang Wangi police station in Kuala Lumpur. The three weredetained under Section 6 of the 2002 Film Censorship Act and questioned foralmost three hours by the investigating team from the Home Affairs Ministry. Atabout 2am, the three Pusat KOMAS representatives were released on police bailafter their statement was recorded.

OnJuly 1, 2013, Ms. Lena Hendry had received a call from the Censorship Board ofthe Ministry of Home Affairs, who asked the organisers to stop the screeningbecause the film had not been vetted by the Censorship Board. She had repliedthat the screening was private and upon invitation only.

Furthermore,there were also attempts by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia to stop thescreening. Embassy personnel faxed a letter to the KLSCAH asking the eventorganisers not to screen the documentary.

OnSeptember 19, 2013, the Home Ministry and Attorney General Chamber (AGC) fileda charge against Ms. Lena Hendry under Section 6 of the 2002 Film CensorshipAct, according to which no one can screen any film or related publicitymaterials that have not been approved by the Censorship Board. Judge AshrafRazal Abdul Manan granted her bail of 1,000 MYR (about EUR 213).

SubsequentlyMs. Lena Hendry’s lawyers filed an application before the High Court to challengethe charges against Ms. Lena Hendry under the 2002 Film Censorship Act, ongrounds that they were inconsistent with Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.

OnApril 11, 2014, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court dismissed Ms. Lena Hendry’sapplication, reasoning that the charges imposed a restriction reasonable andproportional against free speech, in the interest of public security, order andmorality and were not in contradiction with Article 10(2)(a) of the FederalConstitution.

OnMarch 10, 2015, the High Court of Malaysia ordered the suspension of the trialagainst Ms. Lena Hendry, pending a decision of the Federal Court on theconstitutionality of the Film Censorship Act 2002, under which she had beencharged.


Pleasewrite to the authorities of Malaysia asking them to:

i.Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, againstMs. Lena Hendry, all Pusat KOMAs members, and all human rights defenders inMalaysia;

ii. Ensurein all circumstances that Pusat KOMAS and its members as well as all humanrights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activitieswithout any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Complywith all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, inparticular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;

iv.Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedomsin accordance with international human rights standards and international humanrights instruments ratified by Malaysia.


· Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun AbdulRazak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8888 3444, Email:

· Mr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister ofHome Affairs of Malaysia, Fax: +60 3 8889 1613 / +60 3 8889 1610, Email:

· Attorney General of Malaysia, TanSri Mohamed Apandi Ali, Fax: +603 8890 5670 Email:

· Tan Sri Razali Bin Ismail, Chairmanof the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Fax: +60 3 2612 5620,Email:;

· H.E. Mr. Amran Mohamed Zin,Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations inGeneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 710 75 01, Email:

· Embassy of Malaysia in Brussels,Belgium, Fax: +32 2 762 50 49, Email:

Please alsowrite to the diplomatic representations of Malaysia in your respectivecountries.


Geneva-Paris, March 23, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting thecode of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programmeis to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, theEuropean Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by internationalcivil society.

[1] PusatKOMAS has existed since 1993 and it has been on the forefront of the advocacyfor democracy and human rights in Malaysia through creative media. They havehighlighted many human rights issues involving grassroots communities.

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