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Malaysia rights commission to investigate police

Malaysia rights commission to investigate police

November 9, 2000
Web posted at: 12:53 PM HKT (0453 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Reuters) -- Malaysia's human rights commission will investigate whether police abused demonstrators who gathered for an opposition rally last weekend, media reports said on Thursday.

The commission has received numerous reports that police beat protesters, then refused them medical treatment as about 5,000 people grouped on Kuala Lumpur's outskirts to protest the jailing of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, the reports said.

The inquiry will begin soon, the first since the controversial commission was formed earlier this year, the reports quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Some 126 people were arrested during the rally and appeared on Monday before a magistrate, who ordered they be held another five days for investigations. Many complained of police mistreatment.

The human rights commission began operating in April following years of international criticism over Malaysia's rights record.

The commission has been criticised by many as toothless because it reports to the Foreign Minister and must work with the definition of human rights as contained in Malaysia's constitution.

Malaysia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the declaration should be reviewed, saying it does not take into account Asian views on rights.

The Malaysian constitution includes the rights spelt out in the declaration, but in many cases, these have been overriden by local laws such as the Internal Security Act which allows detention without trial of individuals deemed a threat to national security.

The commission has, however, defended its role.

In a statement on Wednesday, it said it was "conducting its own study of laws and procedures governing the right to peaceful assembly and will make its recommendations to the authorities."

The commission said it has received more than 150 complaints to date.

In June, the group had its first public dispute with the government when it urged authorities to let Anwar supporters gather to hear the verdict in his sodomy trial.

Government leaders disagreed and cautioned supporters to stay home. But police permitted a crowd to gather outside the capital's High Court to learn the verdict.

Anwar is serving long jail sentences for sodomy and corruption charges, which he says were fabricated by political opponents in government led by Mahathir. Mahathir denies the charge.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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