Malaysian Lawyers Call for an End to RELA Amidst Increasing Abuses
By Amy Alexander – 21 March 2007- Around noon local time today RELA raided construction site in Bukit Bintang and rounded up about 1000 workers including nearly 300 Chins. Those caught in the midday round-up included many UNHCR recognized refugees. As of this evening, it remains unclear just how many persons were arrested.
In a separate incident yesterday, a team of immigration officers raided the home of Uk Nawl and Biak Thluai, two UNHCR recognized Chin refugees living in Jinjang Utara, taking away their two children, Ngun Za Tial (age 12) and Bawi Lian Thang (age 10). These types of abuses by enforcement personnel occur on a regular basis in Malaysia . However, RELA and its controversial tactics are receiving more and more criticism by influential members of Malaysian society.
On 17 March 2007 , the Malaysian Bar called for RELA to cease its operations citing allegations of torture and other human rights violations perpetrated against undocumented migrants by RELA’s untrained civilian force. The Malaysian lawyers called for a repeal of the legislation that enabled the creation and maintenance of non-professional law enforcement groups, such as RELA.
Although RELA is composed of untrained civilian volunteers, RELA forces have been given extensive enforcement powers that have translated into increased abuses against undocumented migrants. Not only is RELA able to bear and use firearms, they are also empowered to conduct search and seizures, arrests, and enter premises all without a warrant. Further increasingly the likelihood of abuses, RELA officers receive monetary incentives of 80 RM for each undocumented migrant they arrest.
The Malaysian Bar in their Annual General Meeting unanimously called for the revocation of all four existing Proclamations of Emergency in Malaysia . In addition, they demanded that Malaysia respect its obligations under the April 1999 Bangkok Declaration on Irregular Migration, which entails humane and equal treatment of all persons in Malaysia , including migrants and refugees. Finally, the Bar urged the Malaysian government to ratify certain international instruments, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and also the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.