Towards a democratic and humane Asean through rule of law

In the spirit of the ASEAN Charter in particular Article 14 towards promoting human rights and fundamental freedom in the region, it is indeed vital for us denizens in the ASEAN community to commit and enforce all principles enshrined in the Charter.

We are living in a new ASEAN region whereby protection of human rights is vital for a better well-being and harmony in the society we live in.

We are looking forward to the decision of the Federal Court in Malaysia over the fate of Mr. Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian Opposition Leader for his Sodomy II case, this coming 28th and 29th October 2014.

He has been charged under Section 377A which criminalizes sodomy and oral sex (fellatio). Section 377B provides that whosoever voluntarily commits the acts described in section 377A shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.

These provisions make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual consensual sexual acts, and are thus applicable to both.

AnwarWe express our grave concern that Mr. Anwar is not getting a fair trial given the process of trial at the Appeal Court were done in full of doubt and skewed towards persecuting Mr. Anwar from advancing his political career.

The process was done in haste and the important appeal process was heard only in two days, thus stamping a record in Malaysian judiciary history. The trial also extended to the early evening on March 7, where a decision was made on Mr Anwar and he was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

The manner in the prosecution’s appeal is heard can be insinuated to halt Mr. Anwar’s attempt to run for Kajang state election which was scheduled later that month. We view this as a persecution rather than prosecution.

Even at the first instance, the case raises many questions, had caused much speculation, and lend to the perception that justice may have been hijacked. It is questionable why only Mr. Anwar is being charged for this offence but not the accuser in this case Mr. Saiful who is in impunity for the charges.

There are serious flaws in the administration of justice where Mr. Saiful is not to be charged together with Mr. Anwar and this can be insinuated the Prosecutor is conspiring with the accuser to bring Mr. Anwar’s political career into disrepute.

We also have grave misgivings over how the evidence is treated and tendered to court in this case. It is trite law that in any criminal proceedings, the burden of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt” and to sentence Mr. Anwar based on the alleged tampered DNA is seriously infringing the basic evidence law.

It had created severe doubt to the prosecution’s case. Consequently, this has drawn flaks of criticisms from local and international human rights organization and indeed a twist in fundamental legal principles in a criminal case.

We also deplore the prosecution’s cross appeal against the five years’ sentence on Mr Anwar as it is akin to provide pressure on the judiciary to ensure his conviction and also to end his political career.

We sincerely hope that the Apex Court in Malaysia could administer the case fairly and in accordance with the “rule of law”, free from any interference from any quarters. There is still a chance for any flawed and mistakes on principles of the law to be legally rectified and again place the administration of justice in Malaysia at its greatest height and drawing the confidence from the Malaysian people again.

It would be sad if the only fountain of justice is being skewed for the sake of certain quarters. Mr Anwar is already 67 years old and having him incarcerated for a longer period would certainly take a toll on him of spending his final days behind bars and this could be seen as a move to curb or control the opposition.

We believe the Malaysian people have placed high hopes that the justice and independence not only to be established but must be seen to be established. Malaysia should move forward and cease any attempt to silence dissenting views by using laws and the government apparatus.

To this end, we are calling solidarity and camaraderie amongst the ASEAN community to reject and detest any violation of human rights principles in particular abusing it for the sake of political expediency and in cohort of a corrupt regime.

Thank you.

BEBOT BELLO, Congressman Philippines

Note: The Asean Charter is the constitution governing the 10 member countries, and covers various aspects including regional cooperation, territorial integrity and sovereignty along with upholding human rights and social justice. It was formally adopted at the 13th Asean Summit in 2007.

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