UNHCR Welcomes High Court Decision to Withdraw Caning Sentence for Rohingya refugees

UNHCR Malaysia News   © UNHCR Malaysia

UNHCR welcomes the decision made by the Alor Setar High Court today to withdraw a caning sentence for 27 Rohingya refugees who were to receive three strokes of the rotan for illegal entry.

The Rohingya men were among 40 refugees convicted last month by a magistrates court in Langkawi for entering Malaysia by boat without a valid permit. All 40 also received seven months prison sentences.

The decision demonstrates the High Court’s clear understanding of international refugee law in a mixed migration context and the need for upholding protection measures for refugees and asylum-seekers.

It has been a very long time since a magistrate`s court has issued a sentence including the punishment of caning under section 6(3) of the Immigration Act 1959/63. Caning is not a mandatory penalty, Courts are vested with the discretion to impose caning in cases where there are acts of violence, habitual offenders or threats to public order.

UNHCR warmly welcomes the ruling of High Court Judge Arik Sanusi that caning would be inhumane as the individuals were refugees registered with UNHCR.

The Court also took note of the persecution faced by Rohingya refugees, highlighting the principle of non-refoulement, that refugees cannot be returned to a country, including their own, where their lives or freedom may be at risk.

UNHCR commends the Court’s decision to uphold the protection of human rights of those most vulnerable people among us.