Amnesty International Australia

06/28/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/27/2024 17:49

Arrest of Bajau Laut Human Rights Defender under the Sedition Act is a Shameful Attempt at Suppressing Peaceful Dissent

28 June 2024

Amnesty International Malaysia strongly condemns the arrest of Borneo Komrad founder and human rights defender, Mukmin Nantang, under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act. Mukmin, who exposed the eviction of the stateless, Indigenous Bajau Laut community that took place in Semporna, Sabah earlier this month, was called for investigations at the Semporna district police headquarters earlier today and was subsequently placed under arrest.

"The arrest of Mukmin for exposing human rights violations is beyond the pale. The government has an obligation to protect human rights defenders, not arrest and attempt to intimidate. Furthermore, the use of the Sedition Act to silence the voices of human rights defenders is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression. The repressive Sedition Act has no place in Malaysia and goes against Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's administration's own commitments to repeal draconian laws curtailing freedom of speech," said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia.

"The Sabah state government must stop its crackdown against human rights defenders, including Mukmin Nantang, and the Bajau Laut people. The authorities should end its evictions of the Bajau Laut people, address human rights violations, and not punish those who expose what is going on," said Katrina.

Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the government to immediately stop the sedition probe against Mukmin, who was released on bail earlier today. We call on authorities to repeal the 1948 Sedition Act and pending its repeal, ensure that no one else is arrested, investigated, charged or imprisoned under it for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.

The authorities must also fulfil its state obligations to protect, respect, and uphold the rights and dignity of stateless people and Indigenous persons - including the Bajau Laut people. Amnesty International Malaysia reminds the Madani government of its obligations under international human rights law to protect civic space and ensure human rights defenders are able to do their work without fear and intimidation.

Background

On 27 June, Mukmin Nantang was questioned by police under the Sedition Act at Semporna district police headquarters, in connection with videos showing the demolition of Bajau Laut homes and was subsequently placed under arrest. Mukmin has been conditionally released on bail but still faces charges under the Sedition Act for his activism.

This comes after eight Bajau Laut stateless, Indigenous students, three of whom were children, were arrested following a peaceful protest calling for improved water access outside the Sabah Chief Minister's office on 14 June. They were released after seven days in detention. Mukmin Nantang, along with Borneo Komrad, also played a vital role in campaigning for the release of the detained Bajau Laut students.