3 Oxford U. Commw. L.J. 237 (2003)
Half-Way Challenge to Malaysia's Internal Security Act (Mohamad Ezam Bin Mohd Nor v. Ketua Polis Negara)

handle is hein.journals/oxuclwj3 and id is 237 raw text is: WINTER 2003           Oxford C niversi (,nrnonteealth Lar, journal         237
IN THE COURTS
A HALF-WAY CHALLENGE TO MALAYSIA'S INTERNAL
SECURITY ACT
(MOHAMAD EZAM BIN MOHD NOR v KETUA POLIS NEGARA)
JOHN D CIORCIAR*
On 18June 1948, to counter a crisis of criminality and a rising Communist insur-
gency, British colonial authorities declared a temporary State of Emergency in
Malaya. A series of special regulations granted authorities special powers to search
and arrest suspects without a warrant, detain suspects without a trial for up to two
years, restrict movement of people and vehicles, and otherwise frustrate subxversiv e
activities.' The regulations were intended to be transient tools for managing a
severe Communist threat. However, many of their pro7isions became permanent
features of law in 1960, when the newly independent State of Malaysia replaced
the Emergency Regulations with the Internal Security Act ('ISA').2 The ISA
concretized 'emergency' police powers in Malaysia. Throughout the Cold War,
Malaysian leaders justified the ISA as a necessary measure to combat Communist
subversion. Since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the Bali bombings of
October 2002, the menace of Islamic terrorism has emerged as the ostensible
raison d'etre for the draconian law. However, many domestic and international
critics view the statute primarily as a tool for political repression.
.Among other things, the ISA enables authorities to arrest any person deemed a
threat to national security without a warrant and to detain him or her for up to 60
days without a trial.3 No evidence is required for the arrest, no charges need be
* AB, JD (Harvard', MIPlil (Oxon); \ai Seng Senior Research Scholar, Asian Studies Centre, St
Antony's College (Oxford;Niiting Research Fellow, Institute of Delence and Strategic Studies
(Singapore).
The emergency was first dclared under the British filitary Administration (Essential Regulation)
Proclamation and was replaced by legislation passed on 5.July 1948. For general discussions of the
emergency period and regulations, see generally R Stubbs Heart  and Vlj inl Gwe/lWa JI arftre: The
MGalqan Emcgencj 1948 1960 (OUP Singapore 1989); K Ramakrishna Eme.gc.. Propaganda:
The I mtng of Ia/a an Hear T  and lind, 1948 1958 (Curizon Press Richmond Nirginia 2002) chs 3 6.
2 For the most ( omlplete recent dis Ussioni of the ISA in the literature, see N Fritz and 1 laherty
'Unjust Order1\: Mala ysia's Intcrnal Security Act' (2003) 26 Fordham Intl IJ 1345. The ri)ort is the
product of a year-long project undertaken by the .Joseph R Crowley Program in International
Htman Rights at Fordham Law School: ibid 1346 49.
ISA s 73(1(b). Anl individual may be arrested if lie or she 'has acted or is about to act or is likely to
act in al inlanner prcjudicial to (th security of Malaya or aiy part thereof or to imaintenance of'
essential services therein or to the economuic life thereof'.

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