Malaysia: Cease criminal investigations of peaceful UNDI18 protestors

The ICJ today called on the Malaysian authorities to drop their criminal investigations of at least 11 participants in the peaceful Undi18 protests.

The Dang Wangi district police opened investigations against Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, an ICJ Commissioner, and at least ten other individuals including Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh in relation to the wholly peaceful and socially distanced Undi18 protest rally held on 27 March 2021.

They are being investigated for alleged violations of section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (‘PAA’) and Regulation 11 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Infected Local Areas) (Conditional MCO) (No. 4) Regulations 2021 (‘MCO No. 4 Regulations’).

The ICJ said that the application of these laws against the protestors would not be consistent with international law and standards on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The ICJ said that the investigations seem intended to harass and intimidate those who would exercise their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.

If charged and convicted, violations of the PAA could result in a fine of up to RM$10,000 (approx. USD 2,410). Violations of the MCO No. 4 Regulations may result in a prison term of up to six months and/or a fine of RM$10,000 (approx. USD 2,410).

The ICJ reiterated its previous call for Malaysian legislators to reform the PAA, which imposes unjustifiably burdensome restrictions carrying excessive penalties on the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly.


Boram Jang, International Legal Adviser, Asia & the Pacific Programme, e: boram.jang(a)


In July 2019, the Malaysian Parliament unanimously voted to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years old.

On 25 March 2021, the Election Commission announced that it would postpone the implementation of this new rule from July 2021 to September 2022 at the latest. The Commission cited the COVID-19 lockdowns as a reason for the delay. This would affect the ability of 1.2 million people to vote, if elections are called later this year.

On 27 March 2021, hundreds of individuals gathered peacefully in front of Malaysia’ Parliament building to protest this delay. It was reported that the protestors were wearing face masks and trying to observe physical distancing, with some protestors donning full personal protective equipment.

On 29 March 2021, 11 individuals were summoned for questioning for alleged violations under section 9(5) of the PAA and Regulation 11 of the MCO No. 4 Regulations.

On 30 March 2021, eight of them gave their statements at the Dang Wangi police station in Kuala Lumpur. Four others, including Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, will give their statements on 2 April 2021.

Section 9(5) of the PAA imposes a requirement for a five-day notice of an assembly to the Officer in Charge of the Police District. Failure to do so may result in a fine not exceeding RM$10,000 (approx. USD$2,410). Section 21A also allows the police to issue compounds of up to RM$5,000 instead of a charge being proffered subject to the written consent of the Public Prosecutor.

Regulation 11 of the MCO No. 4 permits the gathering or involvement in a gathering subject to any directions issued by the Director General. Regulation 17 states that failure to comply may result in a fine not exceeding RM$1,000 (approx. USD$241), imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both. Additional emergency laws have raised the potential fine that may be imposed to up to RM$10,000 (approx. USD$2,410).

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