Malaysia ban on human rights coalition is "assault on freedom" - Amnesty

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 9 January 2014 09:15 GMT

Malaysians wave national flags during National Day celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the country's independence at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, on Aug. 31, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

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Home Ministry official said organisations in the coalition - which have fought for the LGBT rights and freedom of religion - are "not based on Islamic teachings"

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Amnesty International criticised Malaysia’s ban on an umbrella group of human rights organisations as “a disturbing assault on the rights to freedom of expression and association”.

Organistions under the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (Comango) have championed the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and have also called for freedom of religion in Muslim-majority Malaysia.  

However, according to Amnesty, Comango angered Malaysian authorities in March 2013 when it submitted a report to the United Nations, pointing to a wide range of areas where the Malaysian authorities need to improve their human rights record.

On Jan. 8, Malaysia’s Home Ministry called Comango an illegal entity, as only 15 of the group’s 54 organisations were registered with the Registrar of Societies, reported local newspaper The Star.

The ministry’s Secretary-General Datuk Mohamad Khalid Shariff also said “the organisations in the coalition are not based on Islamic teachings”, the Star reported.

In a statement released Wednesday, London-based Amnesty said the ban was “aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards”.

Rights groups have criticised the multi-racial Southeast Asian country for passing laws that permit detention without trial, dragging critics to court for staging protests and prosecuting opposition politicians for organising protests against election results.

“It is concerning to see the Malaysian authorities increasingly taking their cue from hardline religious groups and others seeking to silence those who espouse views that differ from their own agenda,” Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia researcher at Amnesty International, said in the statement.

Observers say Malaysia's ruling party, stung by an election setback in May, is burnishing its Islamic credentials, aiming to gain ground among majority ethnic Malay voters in a move that could heighten concern over growing religious intolerance in the country.

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