Malaysia: Drop charges against Lena Hendry

Lena Hendry letter

Dear Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali,

We write to you as organisations that are deeply concerned by the decision of the Malaysian authorities to prosecute Lena Hendry for her involvement in the screening of the award-winning human rights documentary, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” in Kuala Lumpur on July 9, 2013. The charges against her violate Malaysia’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, notably to receive and impart information. We respectfully urge you to drop the charges against Hendry. Her trial in Magistrate Court 6 in Kuala Lumpur is slated to begin on December 14, 2015.

As you know, Hendry is being charged under section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, which imposes a mandatory prior censorship or licensing scheme on all films before they can be screened at any event, except films sponsored by the federal government or any state government. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison and a fine up to RM 30,000.

The prosecution appears intended to restrict the activities of Hendry and members of the KOMAS, the human rights education and promotion organisation with which she works, by hindering their efforts to provide information and share their perspectives on human rights issues.

International human rights law and standards, such as found in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Malaysia has committed to ensuring that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals from the government. In November, Malaysia voted in favor of a resolution on “Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection” in the 3rd Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution set out the urgent need for governments to protect human rights defenders worldwide. Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” Article 12(2) provides that the government shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights.”

In addition to dropping the charges against Hendry, we also urge you, as attorney general, to seek to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia. This policy denies Malaysians the opportunity to benefit from a range of viewpoints on issues of importance to Malaysian society and that affect Malaysia’s role in the world.


Brad Adams
Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch

Gail Davidson
Executive Director
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Jodie Ginsberg
Chief Executive
Index on Censorship

Karim Lahidji
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Mary Lawlor
Front Line Defenders

Edgardo Legaspi
Executive Director
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

Marie Manson
Program Director for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
Civil Rights Defenders

Champa Patel
Interim Director, South East Asia and Pacific Regional Office
Amnesty International

Amy Smith
Executive Director
Fortify Rights

Oliver Spencer
Head of Asia
Article 19

Gerald Staberock
Secretary General
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

Sam Zarifi
Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
International Commission of Jurists



Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Home Affairs
Joseph Y. Yun, Ambassador of the United States of America to Malaysia
Luc Vandebon, Ambassador of the European Union to Malaysia
Victoria Treadell, British High Commissioner to Malaysia
Christophe Penot, Ambassador of France to Malaysia
Holger Michael, Ambassador of Germany to Malaysia
Rod Smith, Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia
Judith St. George Canadian High Commissioner to Malaysia
Dr John Subritzky, New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia
Ibrahim Sahib, Sri Lanka High Commissioner to Malaysia

Bahraini court postpones trial of Nabeel Rajab until 20 January

Nabeel Rajab during a protest in London in September (Photo: Milana Knezevic)

Nabeel Rajab during a protest in London in September (Photo: Milana Knezevic)

Nabeel Rajab has been freed without bail as a court postponed his trail until 20 January.

A Bahraini court had ruled last week that Nabeel Rajab would face criminal charges stemming from a single tweet in which both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense allege that he “denigrated government institutions.” The court had postponed the trial until Sunday, 2 November. If convicted, Rajab could face up to six years in prison.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and Index on Censorship condemn the criminal prosecution brought against Rajab, denounce his continued detention on charges related to his right to free speech and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Rajab, President of BCHR and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), was summoned to the Cyber Crimes Unit of the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) for interrogation and promptly arrested on 1 October after spending months advocating for human rights in Bahrain throughout Europe. After 19 days in pre-trial detention, Mr. Rajab appeared in front of a judge on 19 October, where the court postponed sentencing until 29 October and denied him release on bail.

The international community has been outspoken in condemning the arrest of Rajab and calling for his immediate and unconditional release. The United Nations called his detention “chilling” and argued that it sends a “disturbing message.” The governments of the United States, Norway, France, and Ireland, as well as the President of the European Parliament, United States Ambassador Samantha Power, United States Congressman James McGovern, 13 members of the UK Parliament and 40 members of the European Parliament also called for Mr. Rajab’s release. While the UK government claims to be following the situation closely, it has yet to call for Rajab’s release.

This is not the first time Rajab has faced arbitrary detention. From July 2012 to May 2014, he was detained after calling for and participating in peaceful protests in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. Rajab was also previously sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for allegedly defaming citizens of Muharraq via Twitter. Despite his eventual acquittal by the Court of Appeal, Rajab served most of his sentence.

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab;
  • drop all charges against him in relation to or retaliation for his work and his exercise of the right to freedom of expression; and
  • ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

Index on Censorship

This article was originally posted on Wednesday Oct 29 2014 and updated on Sunday Nov 1 2014 at