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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21, 2015:

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said the concept of an illegal assembly no longer existed, after Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 was repealed.

In rebutting Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan’s assertion that police were right to ban the Bersih 4.0 assembly, the commission argued any assembly is therefore considered peaceful if its organisers have clarified that its intentions were peaceful and have duly conveyed them to the authorities.

“Consequently, the authorities not only have an obligation to protect peaceful assemblies, but should also take measures to facilitate them and to comply with the many international human rights standards on the freedom of assembly as this right is protected constitutionally in Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said in a statement this evening.

He pointed out the same right was enshrined in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a fundamental freedom.

Hasmy added while police have a vast range of statutory powers and duties when it came to policing protests, the men in blue must not seek to prevent, hinder or restrict a peaceful assembly except to the extent allowed by the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).

The Commission, he said, reiterated that any restriction must be lawful and in pursuit of a legitimate aim such as in the interest of the security of the country or public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

“However, the burden is on the authorities to provide convincing and compelling reasons to justify an interference with this right and to demonstrate that any interference would be proportionate.”

Nur Jazlan yesterday said it was wise that police decided to ban the rally, scheduled on August 29 and 30. He also said having the rally at the same venue for the Merdeka celebrations would only disrupt preparations for the latter.

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