Kenneth Cheng (Documentation and Monitoring Officer, SUARAM)
In commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26th of June 2022, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) in collaboration with Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF) held an exhibition on torture prevention, bringing together artists from Malaysia and Thailand in Lostgens’ Contemporary art space at Kuala Lumpur. The main purpose of the exhibition is to display the winning artworks from the Malaysian Youth Action Against Torture (MYACT) cartoon competition which SUARAM has successfully organised in 2021.
In 2021, SUARAM launched a cartoon competition focusing on campaigning against torture of juvenile. The reason for the competition and the subsequent exhibition is that SUARAM has noticed the prevalence of torture and ill-treatment is due to in large part of an accepted culture in Malaysia that torture should be allowed in the name of public security and safety. Therefore, the cartoon competition aims to increase public awareness by empowering young people to reflect on the practice, culture, withheld beliefs on torture, and realize it through their drawings. The competition was a huge success where SUARAM received more than 100 artworks from around 70 participants.
For the exhibition, SUARAM along with Lostgens’ curator, we have carefully selected around 20+ artworks to be displayed along with guides and descriptions on why torture is still happening in Malaysia. The 2-days exhibition also featured Tawan Wattuya, a Thai artist to collaborate with local artist Zunar to have a live painting session titled “Visualising a torture-free nation”. After the live-painting session, there Is also a sharing session moderated by SUARAM and both artists would have a speaking session where they would explore the idea of what does it mean to be a torture-free nation in both Malaysia and Thailand. Some of the topics they discussed include whether policing in both countries should be centred around human rights approach; rights of the arrested person; and a legislation for an independent commission to investigate police misconduct.
There was also a sharing experience by Khalid Ismath a social activist and human rights defender. Khalid shared about his experience when he was arrested under the Sedition Act and detained for 23 days before being released. Khalid touched on his experience as a former detainee, what he has personally witnessed regarding the condition police lock-up and shed light on what are the improvements needed for detention places to reduce the occurrence of ill-practice.
Other than that, individual booths would be set up by the ACT4CAT coalition comprised of the Bar Council, Amnesty International Malaysia, Anti-Death-Penalty Network Asia, SUHAKAM and Lawyers for Liberty as part of their mission to empower public with information and create synergy between different NGOs and NHRI on the issue of anti-torture. The ACT4CAT coalition is a campaign co-initiated by the members to collectively advocate for the ratification of the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) as well as for the elimination of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Malaysia.
|SUARAM||Promotional items: SUARAM Human Righst Report,”Kaotim” anti torture music compilation|
|Bar Council||Promotional items: Do Malaysians condone torture leaflets and other anti-torture communication materials|
|Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network||Promotional items: Annual report and thematic research on abolishing death penalty and the psychological effect of death row inmates.|
|Amnesty International Malaysia||Promotional items: Human rights report and other communication materials relating to ratifying Convention Against Torture|
|SUHAKAM||Promotional items: Annual reports, torture artworks and promotional videos about ratifying CAT|
For the main event of the exhibition, ACT4CAT also organised a forum on how to end torture in Malaysia. Each member of the coalition spoke about their own initiatives for advocating against torture. SUARAM shared about the importance of documenting and monitoring torture incident; SUHAKAM talked about raising awareness about torture in Malaysia as their capacity of being the National Human Rights Commission; Bar Council spoke about legislating torture from a human rights lawyer perspective; ADPAN talks about Malaysia’s effort in ending the death penalty; AI Malaysia shared about ratifying UNCAT in Malaysia and finally Lawyers for Liberty shared about challenging detention without trial laws in Malaysia.
Overall, the exhibition was well received by the audience and media where we have recorded more than hundred over of members of the public attended the 2 days exhibition. Aside from raising awareness, the organisers also hope that the young participants of the MYACT competition could be empowered through this competition and with the aim to deepen the anti-torture conversation and how to use creative actions in spreading the anti-torture message.