Irene Fernandez
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October 17, 2003.

Tenaganita is shocked over the the verdict that Irene Fernandez is guilty of maliciously publishing false news in exposing the conditions in Immigration detention camps in August 1995. We stand by our Memorandum on "Abuse Torture and Dehumanised Treatment of Migrant Workers in Detention Camps" and we will continue to ensure that the rights of migrant workers and all others are protected.

The sentencing of Irene Fernandez to 12 months imprisonment has very serious implications on freedom of expression and on human rights defenders. In the conclusion of the Memorandum, Tenaganita called on the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the concerns in the memorandum and to hold the relevant agencies accountable for any omission or commission. The sentence now shows clearly how the government uses institutions to cover up its wrong doings, violations of rights and accountability to the people. The hope that a more independent judiciary will emerge is now completely nailed.

The objective of the sentence seems to be, as expressed over and over by the Public Prosecutor that the sentence should be a deterrent to NGOs and human rights defenders. This harsh sentence does not reflect recognition or respect for the rights and responsibilities of human rights defenders and activists. The Malaysian government¡¦s recent challenge to the international community to respect the rights of people of poor nations is mere rhetoric and hypocratic because it does not respect the rights of its own people. This is clearly reflected in this harsh judgment, in the repressive laws and institutions.

When a government of the day does not respect the rights and dignity of its people, when a government does not give value to life and dignity of workers especially migrant workers, it has destroyed the image of Malaysians and our cry for peace.

The organization is indeed very concerned over the increasing state/custodial violence on migrant workers. The Immigration Act 1959/1963 (Act 155) has been amended to carry harsher penalties of whipping together with imprisonment. Since then thousands of migrants have been detained and 9000 whipped. But not a single recruiter nor employer whipped. This is the travesty of justice where victims get whipped and imprisoned but the perpetrators are free. Similarly, Irene who raised the concerns over the abuse by enforcement agencies is sentenced to 12 months imprisonment while the perpetrators of the violence go free.

Our lawyers have filed the notice of appeal at the High Court. We call on all people who believe in justice and democracy to express their protest and work together for change.

Aegile Fernandez

National Focal Point Coordinator - Tenaganita

Posted on 2004-01-09
Asian Human Rights Commission
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