Drop MCO related charges to avoid prison overcrowding – CIJ

 

KUALA LUMPUR — The Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) calls on the government to immediately withdraw all Movement Control Order (MCO) related charges and halt all future arrests.

Despite the pledge by Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob that there will be no crowded lockups and health protocols would be observed, CIJ continue to see an increase in the number of arrests of persons who allegedly violate the MCO.

“These arrests, numbering more than 6,000 according to Ismail Sabri, places the individuals remanded at a heightened risk – as recently admitted by the Prisons Department themselves – as they may not be able to practice the necessary social distancing in the course of their confinement.

“Furthermore, we have also noted alleged instances of police abuse during the MCO. Unchecked police powers are likely to cause unnecessary panic and fear of public authorities.

“Besides that, the arrests are counterproductive and a waste of public resources; education is key in addressing misinformation surrounding Covid-19, not prosecution through arrests and online crackdowns.

“The government is reminded to comply with human rights norms and standards and ensure such arrests are not arbitrary in nature, are reviewed constantly, and are proportionate to the overarching objective of stalling the spread of Covid-19 in the country.” said CIJ executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu via a statement.

CIJ note and welcome Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Muat’s call for lower court judges to c onsider the risk of Covid-19 spreading in prisons when imposing jail sentences on those who defy the MCO.

“We also laud Prisons director-general Zulkifli Omar for proposing that these judges utilise existing laws to order MCO offenders to do compulsory community work instead of imposing jail time, to reduce congestion in jails and due to the department’s inability to practice social distancing in jails.

“These announcements reinforce the concerns raised by CIJ and other civil society organisations on the need for all law enforcement authorities to adopt clear, consistent and transparent protocols on its powers and actions during this pandemic.

“The law enforcement authorities must act with due diligence and not spiral into the realm of unchecked impunity.” she added.