Letter: The right to peaceful assembly must be protected

By The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

The Human Rights Commision of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) refers to the peaceful assembly being planned by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih), scheduled for 9 July 2011, and also to those reportedly planned by UMNO Youth & Perkasa, and reiterates its position that it is the right of members of the public to assemble and to express their views in a peaceful manner, as provided under Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution, as well as Article 20(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Commission recalls the recommendations it had made in the past for the Government to respect the freedom of assembly, as contained in, among others, its Annual Reports to Parliament, as well as its requests for the repeal of of sub-sections (2), (2A)-(2D),(4),(4A), (5),(5A)-(5C),(7) and (8) of Section 27 and Section 27A of the Police Act 1967, and its recommendation that where the Police finds it necessary to control or disperse a crowd during an assembly, proportionate and nonviolent methods should be employed.

The Commission calls on the authorities to allow the planned peaceful assemblies to be held, and on the parties intending to hold these assemblies to exercise their rights in a peaceful and responsible manner. The Commission shall duly monitor the event.