KUALA LUMPUR: Amnesty International accused Malaysia’s government on Thursday of a “disturbing assault” on freedoms by banning a leading coalition of human rights groups.
Malaysia’s Home Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday declaring the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (Comango) illegal because the group and 39 of its 54 components were not registered with the government.
Ministry secretary-general Mohamad Khalid Shariff accused Comango of pursuing “rights that run contrary to Islam” including gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
The coalition angered authorities last year when it submitted a report to the United Nations (UN) condemning the Muslim-majority nation’s human rights record ahead of a UN rights review.
Amnesty, whose Malaysian arm is under Comango, denounced the move.
“Outlawing Comango is a deeply disturbing action aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards,” Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
It remains unclear how the ministry’s ban will affect Comango activities or those of its members.
Malaysia’s 57-year-old ruling coalition, which guided the country’s transition to a regional economic success, has long applied a firm hand to rights groups and other critics. Authorities have used arrests and court charges to apply pressure.