The Malaysian authorities must immediately abandon plans to whip at least 20 Rohingya men who are being punished simply for trying to seek safety. The government should release all other jailed Rohingya refugees – including women and children – who have been unlawfully singled out, convicted and imprisoned for alleged “immigration offences,” which are contrary to international law, Amnesty International said today.
A Malaysian court has the authority to strike out a caning sentence against the Rohingya men in the coming days. The men, who were allowed to disembark from a boat along with hundreds of other people off the country’s coast in April, are part of a group of 31 Rohingya men convicted of so-called “offences” under the Immigration Act 1959/63 in June. All 31 men were sentenced to seven months in prison, with at least 20 of the group sentenced to three strokes of the cane.
The plan to viciously beat Rohingya refugees is not only cruel and inhuman – it’s unlawful under international standards
“The plan to viciously beat Rohingya refugees is not only cruel and inhuman – it’s unlawful under international standards. To inflict such a violent punishment as judicial caning amounts to torture,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Malaysia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The men who face violent lashings on top of jail terms have already fled persecution and crimes against humanity in Myanmar. They also survived a dangerous journey at sea to Malaysia in search of safety. The inhumanity of this approach is atrocious.”
Together with the men, nine women were also convicted to seven months jail on similar charges of entering and staying in Malaysia without a valid work permit. Fourteen children have been charged, and are also facing jail terms. Malaysia’s Immigration Act imposes six strokes of the cane, fines and up to five years’ imprisonment for people who are deemed to be in Malaysia irregularly. Amnesty International understands that the hundreds of others who disembarked from the boat in question are currently being held in immigration detention.
Entering or staying in a country irregularly – in other words, without the government’s permission – should never be considered criminal offences. Under international human rights law, the criminalization of irregular migration exceeds the legitimate interests of states in regulating migration to their territories. Furthermore, every person – regardless of their migration status – has the right to liberty, and no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. In any case, children should never be detained for immigration reasons under any circumstances, as it is never in their best interests.