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Malaysia: New Anti-Terrorism Measures Tabled in Parliament

(Apr. 2, 2015) On March 30, 2015, the Malaysian government tabled seven bills in the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives, the lower house of the country’s Parliament) related to anti-terrorism. They include:

  • Act on Prevention of Terrorism Bill (D.R. 10/2015);
  • Act to Amend the Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act (No. 2) 2012 (D.R. 9/2015);
  • Act to Amend the Crime Prevention Act 1959 (D.R. 8/2015);
  • Act to Amend the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (D.R. 7/2015);
  • Act on Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries 2015 Bill (D.R. 6/2015);
  • Act to Amend the Prison Act (D.R. 5/2015); and
  • Act to Amend the Penal Code (D.R. 4/2015). (List of Bills, Official Portal of the Parliament of Malaysia (in Malay) (last visited Apr. 1, 2015).)

Prevention of Terrorism Bill

According to the introduction, the aim of the prevention of terrorism bill is to prevent the commission of or support for terrorist acts that involve listed terrorist organizations in a foreign country or in any part of a foreign country and to control persons engaged in such acts. One rationale for adoption of the bill is that terrorist actions have occurred and further action is threatened “by a substantial body of persons both inside and outside Malaysia, which is prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or to any part of the country,” and the Parliament considers it necessary to stop and prevent such actions. (Id.; D.R. 10/2015, List of Bills, supra.)

Under the bill, police officers have the authority to arrest without a warrant any person for whom there are grounds to believe an inquiry is justified. The case of the person arrested is to be referred by the police to the Public Prosecutor for instructions not later than seven days from the date of arrest. (D.R. 10/2015, art. 3(1) & (2), List of Bills, supra.) Unless the suspect is discharged, his or her case should be brought “without unreasonable delay and in any case within twenty-four hours (not including time for the journey) before a magistrate” to obtain a remand order. (Id. art. 3(3).) Upon the submission of a written statement signed by a police officer with the rank of Inspector or above to the effect that there is reason to believe that the suspect is connected to acts involving listed terrorist organizations, the person will be remanded in police custody for 21 days; if no such statement is submitted and there is no other reason to detain the person, the magistrate will order his release. (Id. art. 4(1).)

The bill provides that no one will be arrested and detained solely because of his or her “political belief or political activity.” (Id. art. 4(3).) The Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who tabled the bill, explained that “political belief or political activity” means “engaging in a lawful activity through the expression of an opinion or the pursuit of a course of action made according to the tenets of a political party that is at the relevant time registered under the Societies Act 1966.” (Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 Tabled in Dewan Rakyat, BERNAMA (Mar. 30, 2015).)

Among other measures, article 8 of the bill provides for the establishment of a Terrorism Prevention Board, comprising a chairman, a deputy chairman, and from three to six other members, appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the head of state/king of Malaysia). (Id.) If the Board is satisfied that it is necessary in the interest of Malaysia’s security, it has the authority to issue a detention order for a person to be placed in a detention facility for a two-year period; it may also issue a restriction order making a suspect subject to police supervision for a five-year period and, at the Board’s discretion, attached to an electronic monitoring device. The Board is also given the authority to extend the detention order for a two-year period, to extend the restriction order for a five-year period, and to suspend the detention order. (Id.)

Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Bill

The Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Bill 2015 (Special Measures Bill) provides measures to deal with persons who have taken part in committing or supporting terrorist acts involving listed terrorist organizations in a foreign country or in any part of a foreign country. (Id.) One section of the bill is on extra-territorial application. It states that the Special Measures will have effect in relation “to any person, whatever his nationality or citizenship,” within Malaysia as well as outside the country, and if an offense under the proposed Act is committed by any person anywhere outside the country, he or she can be dealt with as if the offense were committed within Malaysia. (Id.; Special Measures Bill, art. 3.) 3.

Furthermore, in connection with terrorist acts committed abroad, the special measures will apply to any person who travels to Malaysia or who travels to a foreign country from or through Malaysia to engage in committing or supporting terrorist acts involving a listed terrorist organization in a foreign country or in any part of a foreign country. (Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 Tabled in Dewan Rakyat, supra; Special Measures Bill, art. 4.) The bill also permits the revocation of a person’s passport and travel documents to prevent him or her from travelling to a foreign country to engage in terrorist activities. (Hemananthani Sivanandam, Yuen Meikeng, &Martin Carvalho, Prevention of Terrorism, Special Measures Against Terrorism Bills Tabled for First Reading, STAR (Mar. 30, 2015).)

Some of the Proposed Amendments to Existing Laws

Among other changes, the proposed amendment to the Penal Code would make it an offense “to receive training and instruction from terrorist groups and persons committing terrorist acts.” The draft revision also penalizes the possession or control of “items associated with terrorist groups such as flags, banners and publications,” acts punishable with a prison term of up to seven years or a fine. (Id.)

The proposal to amend the Prevention of Crime Act calls for terrorists to be covered under the Act and introduces a new subsection stating, as it would under the proposed Law on the Prevention of Terrorism, that no one will be arrested “solely for his political belief or political activity. (Id.)

The draft act to amend the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 includes new sections providing for statements of an accused made at any time to be admissible as evidence in any security offense case. In addition, it includes a provision that would compel a spouse to disclose any communication made to him or her during marriage. (Id.)

Under the proposed revision of the Prison Act, the Minister of Home Affairs would have the authority “to appoint lock-ups at any police stations and court houses for the confinements [sic] of anyone remanded under the proposed Prevention of Terrorism Act.” (Id.)

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code entail new provisions on organized crime, including a provision that would increase the reward given to members of the public who help apprehend the perpetrators of organized crime. (Id.) Another proposed revision would enhance the powers of the Public Prosecutor to obtain information for the purpose of investigation of offense related to organized crime, e.g., by requiring in a written notice to the suspect “a sworn statement in writing … identifying each item of movable or immovable property, whether within or outside Malaysia, belonging to or possessed” by the person, his relatives, or associates and by identifying each item of property sent out of Malaysia by such persons during a period specified in the notice. (D.R. 9/2015416d(1)(a)(i) &(ii), List of Bills, supra.)