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 29 Apr 2009

Malaysia urged to end abuses

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Human Rights Watch has appealed to new Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to end what it called government abuses such as mistreatment of migrants and detention without trial, reported the Associated Press.

The New York-based group said in a statement received Tuesday that it had urged Najib in a letter "to reverse the abusive policies of the past."

"It's time the Malaysian government delivered on promises to show 'regard for the fundamental rights of the people of Malaysia,' so that it is more than just a pretty sound bite," the group's deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson said.

"It's deplorable that Malaysians continue to face arbitrary detention, censorship and threats to their lives from unaccountable police," she said.

Najib took over as premier from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi early this month. He faces a host of problems, including a sagging economy and racial tensions. Abdullah stepped down following poor election results last year for his ruling National Front coalition.

Human Rights Watch asked Najib to repeal the Internal Security Act that allows for indefinite detention without trial of suspects deemed threats to national security, and urged the release or trial of all detainees.

Najib has promised to change the act and freed 13 detainees upon taking office. But about 30 others, including three ethnic Indian activists, are still imprisoned under the act.

The group also called for legal protection of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and abolition of a volunteer citizen security corps that has been accused of abuses against them.

Malaysia doesn't recognise refugee and asylum seekers and deports those who are found to be in the country illegally.

A US Senate committee report released last week found that Myanmar refugees deported from Malaysia to the border with Thailand are handed over to border traffickers, who sell the refugees to brothels, fishing boats and factories if they cannot pay the traffickers to secure their return to Malaysia.

Responding to the report, Najib said he would take action but needs to get more information from US authorities first.




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