FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

U.S. Hypocrisy and the Malaysian Guantánamo

by JOANNE MARINER

"It’s Malaysia’s Guantanamo," the woman told me. I was visiting Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last week, to talk to an activist from a local human rights group. The group, SUARAM, has been leading a fierce campaign to abolish Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA), a law under which more than 70 men are currently held in preventive detention.

Some of the men are suspected of belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant Islamist group responsible for terrorist bombings in Bali and elsewhere. Others are accused of common crimes like forgery. What they have in common–and what links them to detainees at Guantanamo–is that they are being held in long-term detention without charge or trial.

In a different era–back in the pre-Guantanamo, pre-"war on terror" days–the Clinton Administration would occasionally criticize Malaysia’s reliance on the ISA. Now such concerns have largely been forgotten. What counts, for the U.S. government, is that Malaysia is a reliable ally in fighting terrorism.

Just hours ago the U.S. ambassador to Malaysia lauded the two countries’ "shared cooperation" on counterterrorism. "We have been impressed and gratified that Malaysia wants a leadership role in this arena," he said.

First Give a Fair Trial to the Detainees at Guantanamo …

On the rare occasion that U.S. officials venture to look critically at Malaysia’s detention policies, the local authorities have a ready response: Guantanamo.

Last December, the Malaysian government arrested and detained five Hindu rights activists under the ISA, in a blatant attempt to intimidate the activists from pressing claims of racial discrimination. The U.S. State Department responded critically to the detentions, though it did not condemn them directly.

Without mentioning the Internal Security Act, or even referring explicitly to the question of detention without trial, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed concern for the legal rights of the detainees. It was the U.S. government’s expectation, he said, that the detainees "would be provided the full protections under Malaysian law, that they would be given due process, that they would be accorded all the rights accorded to any other citizen, and that this [would] be done in a speedy and transparent manner."

The Malaysians’ reply was swift. "Can they [the United States] first of all give a fair trial to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay?" asked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. "We’ll only respond if they do so."

Guantanamo and Kamunting

While their purported concern for detainees at Guantanamo was opportunistic, at best, the Malaysian authorities have a point. No country has a perfect human rights record, and it would be folly to insist that only countries with outstanding records have the moral standing necessary to point out others’ shortcomings. Still, it is not easy for the U.S. government–as it fights to prevent detainees at Guantanamo from challenging their imprisonment in court–to give convincing lessons to Malaysia on these issues.

Guantanamo holds nearly four times the number of prisoners as Malaysia’s Kamunting Detention Center, the prison in which the country’s ISA detainees are held. While a few ISA detainees have been held for up to six years, more than 100 prisoners at Guantanamo have been held since early 2002.

Detainees in both places face secret evidence, an overall lack of due process, and, as a result, arbitrary detention. The problems–and even the justifications that the U.S. and Malaysian governments invoke to defend each system–are similar. It is no more convincing for the Malaysian authorities to call on the United States to close Guantanamo–as Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi did in 2006–than it is for the United States to express concern about Malaysian detention practices.

A Malaysian at Guantanamo

Last year, Mohd Farik Bin Amin, one of two Malaysian detainees held at Guantanamo, was granted an administrative hearing. One of the questions he asked was whether the Malaysian government could demand his extradition.

It’s not much of a choice: indefinite detention at Guantanamo or indefinite detention under the ISA. Hopefully, in both countries, fairer options will soon emerge.

JOANNE MARINER is a human rights lawyer.

 


February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail