Following the latest detention of Lokman Nor Adam on 24 April 2001, 9 pro-reform activists in Malaysia have been detained under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

The arrest started just days before the 2nd anniversary commemorating the conviction of former Deputy Prime Minister and Amnesty International's prisoner of conscience, Anwar Ibrahim on 14 April 2001. The nine men, together with pro-reform activists, NGOs and political parties were preparing an event to forward a formal complaint and memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) on April 14, 2001on the state of human rights in Malaysia. This event and intention was made known to the public and the mass media. The organising committee had also notified the Commission of their intention to submit the memorandum on April 14th, in which an appointment was approved by the Commission to receive the memorandum.

The first arrest took place on 10th April 2001. Since then, activists have been picked up one at a time. The Inspector-General of Police stated on many occasions that they will continue to detain more people without trial under the ‘alleged’ threat to national security has ceased. This threat from the police also serves as a ‘warning’ to any pro-reform activists and human rights defenders that many more may be detained under the ISA. .


Those arrested to date are as follows:




Arrested Time

Arrested Venue


Mr. Mohd. Ezam Mohd. Noor

National Youth Chief of National Justice Party

Between 4pm and 5.30pm, local time, 10 April 2001

Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur, as he was about to board a plane to Penang


Mr. Chua Tian Chang @ Tian Chua

Vice President of National Justice Party

Between 4pm and 5.30pm, local time, 10 April 2001

Chua Tian Chang’s office in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur


Mr. Haji Saari Sungip

Organising Chairperson of the April 14th. People Memorandum Rally

Between 4pm and 5.30pm, local time, 10 April 2001

Saari Sungib’s residence in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur


Mr. Hishamuddin Rais

Freelance journalist / film-maker/ social activist

Between 4pm and 5.30pm, local time, 10 April 2001

Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur


Mr. N Gobala Krishnan

Deputy Youth Secretary of National Justice Party

Around 11.30pm local time, 10 April 2001

Langkawi island, State of Kedah


Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Free Anwar Campaign website executive director

9.30 am, 11 April 2001

While driving from his daughter’s house in Kuala Lumpur


Abdul Ghani Haroon

Penang Youth Exco of National Justice Party

11 April 2001

Kuching, Sarawak


Dr Badrul Amin Baharom

National Youth Exco of National Justice Party

12.30 am, 20 April 2001

Kepong, Kuala Lumpur


Lokman Nor Adam

Executive Secretary of Youth Wing, National Justice Party

12.15am, 24 April 2001

Shah Alam, Selangor



  1. Justification for detention without trial?

    The Inspector-General Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, came out with a statement on the arrests on 11 April 2001, alleging that the detainees were attempting to buy grenade launchers, with a sustained programme (running up to the 2004 elections) of using street demonstrations to gather support, and riots to destablise the country.

    He said that the public was being misled by the activists with an event being planned for April 14, the anniversary of the verdict on ex-Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The confusion in the minds of the public was due to a change of name, from 'Black 14' to a handing over of a 'Memorandum Rakyat' (People's Memorandum) to Suhakam. It was on these grounds that they were detained, without trial.

    Government politicians, including both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, spoke in favour of the detentions. The Prime Minister was also quoted in the media that the arrests without trial was necessary as the authorities do not have enough evidence to charge them in court! The National Human Rights Commission was condemned by de facto law minister, Rais Yatim, for coming out with a statement against the use of the ISA.

    On Saturday (14th April), various NGOs and political parties handed in several memoranda to the National Human Rights Commission. The police estimated that 1,500 people showed up, with organisers estimating the numbers were closer to 4,000. The event proceeded and ended peacefully and several of the human rights commissioners came down to address the crowd.

  2. Habeas Corpus Hearing

Habeas corpus is a writ ordering prisoners to be brought before a court or a judge to ascertain whether their detention is lawful.

Tian Chua, Mohd Ezam Mohd Noor, Saari Sungib, Hishamuddin Rais and Raja Petra Kamaruddin of the eight ISA detainees filed a habeas corpus application on 13 April 2001following their arrest under the ISA.

We believe that all ISA detainees are entitled to a fair court hearing. They should be immediately released unless formally charged in court. Unfortunately, confusion has dogged even the hearings of the 'habeas corpus' writs for five of the detainees (separate writs for N Gobala Krishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon were filed in the Shah Alam High Court on 18 April 2001).

On 16th April, proceedings for the habeas corpus of five men began in the High Court, Kuala Lumpur. The initial judge chosen to hear the proceedings withdrew, as his brother, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, was speaking for the defence. Considering the urgency of the proceedings, it is a travesty of justice that he was ever considered suitable.

The judge who replaced the first judge, is Justice Augustine Paul, notorious after having convicted Anwar Ibrahim in the latter's first trial on April 14th 1999. On the grounds that the detainees are being held partly because of a protest against a ruling made by him, the lawyers for the prosecution requested a new judge. The application was rejected by Justice Paul.

The lawyers of the detainees asked that the detainees be produced in court, to ascertain their safety, but Augustine Paul refused the application, as any concerns were based purely on 'hearsay'. This is despite well-documented cases of abuse of detainees held under ISA (most infamously Anwar Ibrahim's black eye).

On 19 April 2001, the Kuala Lumpur High Court rejected an application by the legal team of five Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees that an order be granted to compel the police to allow the lawyers access to the five. After delivering his ruling on this, Justice Augustine Paul then reserved his judgment for 23 April on the habeas corpus application by the five seeking their immediate release from detention.

On 23 April 2001, Justice Augustine Paul again adjourned its decision on the habeas corpus application made by the five reformasi activists detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) to 25 April, in order for him to further study the arguments made by the lawyers.

c. Local efforts

NGOs, community organisations and opposition politicians have openly condemned the arrests. A movement is slowly gathering under the umbrella body of a new citizen’s initiative Abolish ISA Movement (AIM), led by human rights organisations, women’s groups, students, and political activists.

The National Human Rights Commission, with the mandate and prerogative described under the Human Rights Commission Act 1999, has requested for a visit to the detainees, since the arrests took place on April 10th. However, the police have refused to entertain their requests to date.


The Internal Security Act, 1960

Section 73(1) Internal Security Act:

"Any police officer may without warrant arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in respect of whom he has reason to believe-

a. that there are grounds which would justify his detention under section 8; and

b. that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life thereof."

Sect 8. Power to order detention or restriction of persons.

"(i) If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order) directing that that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years."

(Note from SUARAM: the detention order can be renewed by the Minister, which is not uncommon, hence making detention indefinitely.)


Why the ISA is a Draconian Law

Since 1960 when the Act was enacted, thousands of people including trade unionists, student leaders, labour activists, political activists, religious groups, academicians, NGO activists have been arrested under the ISA. The ISA has been consistently used against people who criticise the government and defend human rights. It has been the most convenient tool for the state to suppress opposition and open debate. The Act is an instrument maintained by the ruling government to control public life and civil society.

The ISA provides for ''preventative detention'' without trial for an indefinite period. The ISA violates fundamental rights and goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.

The ISA goes against the right of a person to defend himself in an open and fair trial. The person can be incarcerated up to 60 days of interrogation without access to lawyers.

A person detained under the ISA is held incommunicado, with no access to the outside world. Furthermore, lawyers and family are not allowed access to the detainee.

Torture goes concurrently with ISA detention. Former detainees have testified to being subjected to physical and psychological torture. This may include one or more of the following: physical assault, sleep deprivation, round-the-clock interrogation, threats of bodily harm to family members, including detainees' children. Prolonged torture and deprivation have led to detainees signing state-manufactured 'confessions' under severe duress.

In the last two years, police also conducted similar operations, resulting in mass arrests and police brutality.

14th until 17th. April 1999 (Anwar's sentencing) -- 117 were arrested
14th untill 15th. April 2000 -- 54 people were arrested

(Note: All the above arrests were under the Criminal Procedure Code)


Action Required

  • Demand for the immediate release of all those detained without conditions.

  • Express gravest concern over their well-being. (Please take note that all have been tortured by the police during other arrests since 1998; also, note that the former Deputy Prime Minister emerged from an ISA arrest in September 1998 with his infamous black eye and other forms of physical torture.)

  • If those detained have violated any laws, charge them in an open and fair court.

  • Condemn the use of ISA and call for the Government to repeal the ISA immediately.

  • Condemn the abuse and disrespect of the right to assemble peaceably.

  • Call on the Malaysian Human Rights Commission to intervene and restore democracy and human rights.


Letters Can Be Addressed:

Ybhg Tan Sri Musa Hitam
National Human Rights Commission,
29th. Floor, Menara Tun Razak,
Jalan Raja Laut,
50350 Kuala Lumpur.
Fax- 603-26125620

Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Minister of Home Affairs
Jalan Dato Onn,
50502 Kuala Lumpur.

Kofi Annan
United Nations Room S-3800,
New York NY 10017
Fax: 1-212-963 4879/2155
Email :

Mrs. Mary Robinson
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des nations
8-14 avenue de la Paix,
CH 1211 Geneve,
Fax : (41) 229170213

Inspector General of Police
Tan Sri Norian Mai
Headquarters of Royal Police of Malaysia
Bukit Aman
50560 Kuala Lumpur
Fax: +603 22731326

(Please cc. a copy of your letter to the above authorities to SUARAM at, if possible, for documentation purposes.)