KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — A coalition of 27 groups, trade unions, and organizations have issued a public statement demanding justice for Sabri Umar, an Indonesian migrant worker who has reportedly been wrongfully convicted and brutally punished in Malaysia.
The statement calls on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the Malaysian government to rectify what they describe as a “gross miscarriage of justice.” Sabri Umar, who had been lawfully employed in Malaysia for about seven years, was wrongfully charged and convicted for residing in Malaysia illegally.
He was whipped five times at Tawau Prison on June 23, 2022, and sentenced to 11 months of imprisonment by the Sessions Court on April 19, 2022.
According to the groups, Sabri was arrested at his workplace following an alleged sexual assault complaint filed by his employer, Fu Yee Corporation. Despite being presented with Sabri’s valid passport at the time of arrest, the authorities proceeded with the charges.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor, in possession of Sabri’s valid passport and work permit endorsed by the Immigration Department, continued with the charges. The undersigned groups question this decision, as the evidence clearly proved Sabri’s legal status in the country.
Furthermore, the Immigration Department tendered a document in court claiming no records on Sabri existed, contributing to his conviction. The coalition condemns this action and has expressed disappointment with Fu Yee Corporation for failing to notify the courts or authorities about Sabri’s wrongful conviction.
The groups also underline the role played by Sabri’s Union, the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU), in bringing this issue to the fore. After their intervention, the High Court called up the case for revision and acquitted Sabri on July 22, 2022.
However, Sabri has encountered ongoing difficulties since his release, including short-term special passes from the Immigration Department and an unsuccessful High Court application to remain in Malaysia legally until his quest for justice is complete. Fearing further arrest and harassment, Sabri has temporarily returned to Indonesia.
The groups accuse the National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Malaysian Parliament, and the Home Minister of inaction regarding Sabri’s case, thus putting the onus on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to intervene.
The statement stresses that failure to ensure justice in such cases could inadvertently encourage further rights violations and exploitation in Malaysia.
To prevent this, the undersigned groups call on the government to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate Sabri’s case, and others like it, and to review the current policy of repatriating migrant workers with outstanding claims or cases.
The statement concludes with an urgent call for a public apology and appropriate compensation for Sabri.
The groups demand action against those responsible and reiterate the need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. They urge Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to set an example by actively promoting and defending human rights of all, including migrant workers and foreign nationals.
The following are the 27 group signatories:
- Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha(MASUM), India
- Black Women for Wages for Housework
- Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific
- Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
- Global Women’s Strike
- Haiti Action Committee
- International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
- Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center
- Labour Law Reform Coalition, Malaysia
- Legal Action for Women, UK
- MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
- Migrant Care, Indonesia
- Network of Action For Migrants in Malaysia(NAMM)
- North South Initiative, Malaysia
- Payday Men’s Network (UK-US)
- Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & Kuala Lumpur
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor(PSWS), Malaysia
- Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
- Sabah Plantation Industry Employees Union (SPIEU)
- Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union to Union (STIEU)
- Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Bangladesh
- Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
- Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
- Union of Forestry Employees Sarawak (UFES)
- WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
- Women of Color-Global Women’s Strike, US/UK