Despite roadblocks set up by the police in and around Kuala Lumpur to prevent protesters from gathering for the rally, thousands turned up on 9 July and many found their way around the roadblocks. The police allegedly used tear gas, batons and chemical-laced water cannon indiscriminately to disperse crowds of protesters, seriously injuring many. Tear gas was also reportedly fired directly into the protesters. One protester, Mr Allahyarham Baharuddin Ahmad, 58, died in a hospital after reportedly being hit in the head with a tear gas canister fired by the police, an allegation the authorities deny.
“Instead of upholding the highest standards of human rights as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Malaysian government has shockingly unleashed brute force on its own people,” said Debbie Stothard, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General. “The government must be held to account for blatantly violating internationally recognised rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression,” added Ms Stothard.
More than 1,600 people, including 151 women and 16 children, were arrested for merely taking part in the rallies on 9 July and were subsequently released. However, six leaders of the opposition party, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), remained in detention without trial under the draconian Emergency Ordinance of 1969 since they were first arrested on 25 June. They are allegedly being kept in solitary confinement with limited access to the lawyers and family members. Family members and lawyers were only allowed to visit them for 15 minutes each on 7 July. On the other hand, a habeas corpus hearing has been set on 12 August 2011, but the detainees’ lawyers have objected to this date and requested for an earlier date.
“Calling for clean and fair elections is not and should not be a crime, and Malaysia must immediately and unconditionally release all those still detained for their peaceful advocacy, drop charges against them, and cease all harassment of pro-reform activists,” urged Souhayr Belhassen. “An independent and impartial investigation must be conducted to look into the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials on 9 July and accountability must be established for the injuries caused,” said Ms. Belhassen.