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Briefing notes on Yemen and Malaysia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 16 September 2014

1) YEMEN

We urge the authorities in Yemen to conduct an independent, prompt and effective investigation into the killing of nine people in Sana’a during the protests that took place on 7 and 9 September. A further 67 people were reported injured, including 33 by live ammunition and others as a result of use of tear gas.

According to interviews conducted by the UN Human Rights Office with injured protestors and witnesses in Sana’a, the protestors were armed only with sticks, stones and umbrellas, and security forces opened fire with live ammunition without warning. To date, no official investigation has been initiated into the alleged excessive use of force. Those killed included a farmer, an ambulance driver, an airport worker and students.

As Yemen faces various internal challenges, it is more crucial than ever that violations of international human rights law are not swept under the carpet. A prompt, impartial investigation will send a strong signal of deterrence to perpetrators of such violations and ensure that victims’ right to justice and remedy is upheld.

We call on all sides of the political divide in Yemen to renounce the use of violence and to participate in the ongoing national processes in order to avoid further instability and bloodshed.

2) MALAYSIA

We are concerned about the recent increase in the use of the 1948 Sedition Act to arrest and prosecute people for their peaceful expression of opinion in Malaysia. Since the beginning of August, at least nineteen people, including religious leaders, civil society actors, political opposition members and activists, a university professor and a journalist have been charged or placed under investigation for sedition.

To cite three examples: On 13 September, an investigation was opened against Edmund Bon, a human rights and constitutional lawyer, for comments in an article on the legal use of the word “Allah”, which were critical of current restrictions on members of the other religious groups using the term. On 2 September, Dr. Azmi Sharon, an associate professor of law at the University of Malaya, was charged because of a statement he published on 14 August regarding the appointment process for a new State Government during the 2009 political crisis in Perak, a state of Malaysia. On 4 September, Susan Loone, a journalist working for an independent online newspaper Malaysiakini, was arrested in connection with an article in which she quoted Phee Boon Poh, a Penang State Executive Councilor, as saying that he was treated like a criminal during a police interrogation.

The Sedition Act of Malaysia is overly broad and does not outline well-defined criteria for sedition*. We call on the Government to quickly initiate a promised review of the Act and to repeal or amend it in line with its international human rights obligations.

We are also concerned that the authorities in Malaysia are arbitrarily applying the Sedition Act to silence critical voices. We urge the Government of Malaysia to immediately stop investigations and prosecutions under the Act, and to drop charges against all those currently facing prosecution.

* “Seditious tendencies” include a tendency to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite “disaffection” against any ruler, the Government or the administration of justice.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org)

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