SEPTEMBER 3 — The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) read with utter bewilderment the suggestion of a former Court of Appeal judge, Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah, that authorities must do as much as possible to ensure jails are made highly inhospitable for prisoners by having their detainment cells deliberately infested by rats, cockroaches and other rodents so that inmates are deterred from repeating their crimes (Cells should have mosquitoes, rats and cockroaches to make criminals fear prison, says retired judge, The Malay Mail Online, September 1, 2016).
We are even more shocked to discover that Pulai MP and Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed has come out in support of the idea (Nur Jazlan setuju letak tikus, nyamuk dalam penjara supaya banduan insaf, Free Malaysia Today, September 2, 2016).
It is unbelievable that 16 years into the third millennium and the 21st century, there are persons of high as well as formerly high office in any country in the world, much less a progressive Islamic one such as our Malaysia, that contemplate the very notion of deliberate jail cell infestation as aggravating punishment for a form of criminal deterrence, much less dare to give credence to such a medieval idea.
The former judge and deputy minister must surely know that we do not live in the Stone Age or the Dark Ages, but in the year 2016. Their call is therefore strongly denounced and condemned by us at CENTHRA. Prisoners and inmates are first and foremost human beings and undergo incarceration chiefly as a form of rehabilitation, and not as part of a sadistic form of justice.
Upon completion of their jail terms, these inmates are released back into society, who are equally obliged to accept them with zero prejudice and open arms. The very idea that prisoners somehow “deserve” to be treated as subhuman on account of their crimes is therefore vile indeed and is urged to be similarly denounced and condemned by all right thinking Malaysians.
All must take cognisance that in today’s world, it is demanded of every person in authority the strict abidance of universal human rights principles enshrined principally within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), Article 1 of which states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and as such, must act towards one another in a spirit of universal brotherhood.
Article 3 thereof further states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person whereas Article 5 says that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Similarly, Article 5(1) of our Constitution encapsulates the right to life save in accordance with law and judicial decisions such as Tan Tek Seng v Educational Services Commission and Another  1 MLJ 261 and Lee Kwan Woh v Public Prosecutor  hold that this right to life includes all those facets that are an integral part of life including livelihood and quality of life.
Such rights are also inherent within prisoners and inmates no less, as made clear in the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990, particularly by Article 5 thereof.
It is thus clear that any deliberate infestation of jail cells with dirty and disease bearing rodents amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and thus constitutes a deplorable, inhuman and barbaric interference with the aforementioned rights and possibly constitutes a crime in itself pursuant to the Penal Code and the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
CENTHRA thus invites both the former judge and current Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and read and appraise themselves of the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners and put these principles into practice forthwith in all our prisons and detaining facilities, and discard once and for all any disgusting notions of deliberate ill treatment towards our prisoners and inmates, which goes not only against established human rights norms but also Islamic teachings on mercy, which form part of the positive obligation of our State to discharge pursuant to Article 3(1) of the Constitution establishing Islam as the state religion read in light of the Herald’s Case  8 CLJ 890.
We hope that these individuals will be minded to retract their views on this matter and issue an apology in respect hereof soonest.
* This press statement is written by Azril Mohd Amin, lawyer and Chief Executive of Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA).
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.