Malaysia: Unions file petition, seek justice for migrant worker wrongfully jailed and whipped

BWI-affiliated trade unions in Malaysia, the Asia Pacific region and other parts of the world joined hands as they filed a petition before the Malaysian National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) calling on the institution to hold a public inquiry on the human rights violations suffered by Sabri Bin Umar, a migrant worker from Indonesia who was wrongly charged, imprisoned and caned five times by Malaysian authorities.


The petitioning groups urged all relevant Malaysian authorities to allow Sabri to remain in Malaysia to work and/or until he concludes his legal battle for reinstatement to his work. They also urged the Immigration Department to revoke the shortening of his work permit (Pas Lawatan Kerja Sementara(PLKS)/Social Visit Temporary Employment Pass), which was requested by his employer without his knowledge and/or consent, and a direct violation of his rights. 

“We urge the SUHAKAM to verify, investigate and make a finding, especially on rights violated and the perpetrators responsible. A Public Inquiry is also needed as this will also help other migrant workers, who may or will suffer a similar fate as Sabri, and it will also help bringing about needed reforms to attitudes and practices of relevant government departments, the courts and prosecutors and employers of migrant workers,” the petition said. 

It can be recalled that on 22 June, Sabri was wrongly convicted and whipped at the Tawau Prison in Malaysia for allegedly being an illegal alien. Various trade unions, human rights groups and civil society organisations condemned Sabri’s imprisonment and whipping. The groups said that the whipping has been carried out despite a pending appeal. They also called for the abolition of whipping as a corporal punishment, saying it is against international human rights standards. 

Last 22 July, the Tawau High Court in Sabah acquitted Sabri. According to reports, Sabri’s legal defence was able to present documents, such as a valid passport and work pass, to prove that the migrant worker’s stay in the country is valid. 

BWI Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator Apolinar Tolentino said that the petition is part of the collective effort of different trade unions and human rights organisations to bring legal action against all those who were responsible for Sabri’s wrongful conviction and whipping. 

Read the petition here.