Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bersih crackdown: Clinton, crack the whip

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been urged to denounce the Malaysian government’s behaviour with regard to the Bersih 2.0 rally.

In a letter to her, four international human rights organisations expressed disappointment over the US’ lukewarm response and reminded the former president’s wife that she had presented Bersih 2.0 chairperson S Ambiga with the the International Women of Courage Award in 2009.

The organistions urged Clinton to publicly denounce the Malaysian government’s behaviour as being inconsistent with democratic principles and conradictory to Malaysia’s obligations as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The four were Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Phycisians for Human Rights.

The letter noted that on July 8, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US had communicated to Malaysia the importance of respecting human rights.

On July 13, deputy spokesperson Mark Toner reiterated the US’ concerns and assured that they would continue monitoring the situation closely.

“As the official response of the US government to this crackdown, these comments are lukewarm at best and send a very weak signal regarding US’ commitment to human rights and democracy,” the letter stated.

“As a country with close economic and political ties to Malaysia, the US government cannot remain conspicuously silent in the wake of this crackdown on basic civil liberties and human rights.

“Malaysia’s actions, which fundamentally violate the basic rights to free assembly and expression, are particularly reprehensible given its membership in the UNHRC,” it read.

Release PSM six

The letter pressed the US government to publicly demand that Malaysia end the campaign of harassment and prosecution against Bersih supporters, lift the ban on Bersih, launch an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the crackdown, and hold accountable those officers found to have used excessive force.

“The US has to do more than just blithely issue statements calling for restraint on both sides because the violence on July 9 was coming just from one side – the police,” said HRW Asia division’s deputy director, Phil Robertson.

“The US should immediately demand a full and impartial investigation into use of excessive violence by the police, end preventive detention of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders, and un-ban Bersih so that discussions can go forward on badly-needed electoral reforms.”

The detention of the six under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) was a particularly grave concern for the letter signees.

They pointed out that the six still remained in police custody awaiting a court hearing on July 22 for their habeas corpus application filed on July 6.

“We want the US government to publicly call on the Malaysian government to immediately end all use of preventive detention to hold Bersih, PSM supporters, and other groups that advocate peacefully and stop using laws that provide for preventive detention for political reasons,” the letter said.

It also asked that the US government take the seriousness and timeliness of its Malaysian counterpart’s response to these concerns when considering a possible visit by President Barack Obama to Malaysia later this year.

[Source: FMT]

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