Illegal Arrest And Detention in Malaysia

About this Violation

About this Violation

You may be illegally arrested and detained by the authorities, due to your work on business-related human rights abuses.

What is illegal arrest and detention?

Being arrested means to be bodily confined by the police. Arrest and detention have often been used to intimidate and ultimately silence human rights defenders. 


From the moment you are arrested, you should be brought before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours, either to be formally charged or to be remanded. If the investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours, then the Police may apply to the Court for your remand. Your detention can be prolonged by the Magistrate, for a period of no more than 15 days and the magistrate must record the reason for granting the detention order. If the detention is not prolonged, you should be released.

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    Presumption of innonce

    The presumption of innocence is a principle in law that everyone must be presumed to be innocent and treated as such. It stems from article 5 of the Constitution, which stipulates that ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty in accordance with law.’ In addition, Section 11 of Criminal Code sets out that every person shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

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    Security Offences (Special Measures) Act

    However, according to specific laws allowing preventive detention like the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the police have the power to detain the accused for up to 28 days without going through the courts. 

Facing criminal charges and filing a criminal complaint once the charges against you have ended

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Facing criminal charges and filing a criminal complaint once the charges against you have ended 

When you are facing charges

Rights during arrest and detention

Your rights during your arrest and detention include:

  1. Right to be informed of the grounds of your arrest while being arrested or immediately upon your arrest;
  2. Right to communicate with your relative or friend of your whereabouts within 24 hours from the time of your arrest,unless there is reasonable belief that this could result in an accomplice of the person arrested to avoid apprehension, or there would be destruction, concealment or fabrication of evidence or intimidation of witness or the questioning of statement is so urgent that it should not be delayed after taking into account the safety of others;
  3. Right to communicate or contact a lawyer of your own choice within 24 hours from the time of your arrest, unless there is reasonable belief that this could result in an accomplice of the person arrested to avoid apprehension, or there would be destruction, concealment or fabrication of evidence or intimidation of witness or the questioning of statement is so urgent that it should not be delayed after taking into account the safety of others;
  4. Right to defer any questioning or recording of any statement by the police until the consultation with your lawyer takes place;
  5. Right to consult and to be represented by your lawyer within the sight of the police;
  6. Right to be brought before a Magistrate within 24 hours from the time of your arrest. If the police officer believes that they will need to detain you for a longer period for further investigation, they will need to bring you before a Magistrate within the 24-hour period and apply for a remand order.
    1. If the offence that is being investigated is punishable with imprisonment for less than 14 years, your detention period can be extended to 7 days in total. 
    2. If the offence being investigated is punishable with death or imprisonment for 14 years or more, your detention period can be extended to 14 days in total.
  7. Right to police bail. Police bail (also referred to as "jamin mulut") is the process by which the police release you from detention, based on your promise to attend Court when asked to. Police bail may be given after your arrest and before being charged in Court.

Rights during questioning

The questioning after the arrest falls under section 111 of the Code of Criminal Procedure statement. You can choose to remain silent. You can ask for a lawyer. You have the right to remain silent while the police are taking your section 112 statement.

If any of your rights above are violated during your arrest or detention, you should raise the issue with the authorities and you can also file a habeas corpus petition.

Opposing remand

If you are already arrested and detained and are brought before a Magistrate to decide on your remand, you or your lawyer can oppose the remand application by the police.

Applying for bail

If you are already arrested and detained, you can ask for bail by the police, namely, to be released on condition that you appear at the Court whenever you are required to. Note that not all offences are bailable. Bail can be asked for less serious offences. The Officer in Charge of a police station must grant bail for bailable offences if you are prepared to furnish a bail bond. In contrast, more serious offences are non-bailable. For those offences, bail cannot be granted if there is evidence that the person could be found guilty of an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment. However, in a few cases, persons charged with non-bailable offences might be granted bail.

Once the charges against you have ended

Filing a criminal case against the official who illegally arrested you

It might be the case that the state official has wrongfully arrested or detained and maliciously exercised their duties. Their conduct might fall under the scope of the offences below: 

  • Section 166 of the Penal Code prohibits public servants from disobeying the law, “as to the way in which he is to conduct himself as such public servant, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will, by such disobedience, cause injury to any person.”
  • Section 167 of the Penal Code punishes public servants, who, being charged with the preparation of a document, prepare it in an incorrect way, to cause injury to a person.
  • Section 177 of the Penal Code penalizes those who knowingly furnish wrong information to the authorities and sections 191 and 192 of the Penal Code punish giving and fabricating false evidence.
  • Section 211 of the Penal Code, stipulates “Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Section 219 of the Penal Code penalises public servants who make reports contrary to the law during judicial proceedings. 
  • Section 220 of the Penal Code states “Whoever, being in any office which gives him legal authority to commit persons for trial or to confinement, or to keep persons in confinement, corruptly or maliciously commits any person for trial or confinement, or keeps any person in confinement, in the exercise of that authority, knowing that in so doing he is acting contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Sections 330 and 331 of the Penal Code prohibit anyone, including state officials from voluntarily causing you hurt or grievous hurt to exhort confession.
  • Sections 339 and 340 of the Penal Code prohibit wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement are punished by the Penal Code. The same applies to wrongful confinement to exhort confession.

If you think that the state official who illegally arrested and detained you has committed any of the criminal offences above, you should consider reporting the incident to the authorities. This can be done by 

  • Making a police report at the nearest police station, either orally or in writing. In your report you should include all the details of the offence, such as time and place, as well as information on the offender. If you seek further action on your case, this report will be an ‘action report.’ However, you might choose not to press charges, but just to inform the authorities and document your case. In this case, the police report will be a ‘case report.’ Remember to take a copy of the report.
  • Directly filing a criminal complaint to the Magistrate. The Magistrate, after relevant inquiry, should order the police station to initiate investigation. If the Magistrate dismisses the complaint and does not order an investigation, then he/she must record the reasons for that.

What can you expect?

The police will investigate your case, interview witnesses and suspects and might ask you to give further statements. If there is enough evidence, the investigation officer will bring the case before the Deputy Public Prosecutor to decide on the charges. If there is not enough evidence the case will be closed. If the Prosecutor presses charges, the case will go on trial stage. The court will hear the prosecution’s case, examine the accused, and allow him to present their case. Then, it will make its judgment, either convicting the accused, if the case was proven beyond reasonable doubt or acquitting him/her for lack of evidence. The burden of proving the case lies with the prosecutor.

What if you are not satisfied with the outcome? 

As a victim you are not allowed to file an appeal if you are not satisfied with the judgment of the court. This is a right of the prosecution and the accused. The only case that you might be allowed to file for appeal is if you have launched a private prosecution.

What is the Victim’s Impact Statement

As a victim of the offence, you have the right to appear in court and participate in the criminal trial, by giving a statement on the impact that the offence had on you or your family, such as trauma or harm, economic loss or damages suffered by yourself or your family. Your statement will be taken into consideration in passing the judgment. 

How can you get compensation? 

In criminal proceedings, Malaysian courts may award compensation to victims. Section 426 (1A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires the Court, to order the convict (or the parent or guardian, in the case of a child convict) to pay monetary compensation to the victim or the deceased victim’s family. Compensation is granted by the Court, upon application by the Prosecutor.  In assessing the amount of compensation, the Court is empowered to hold an inquiry, and several factors must be considered including the nature of the offence, the injury sustained by the victim, expenses, and losses (including loss of income) suffered by the victim, and the convict’s financial capability to meet the compensation.

In addition, according to article 438 of the Code of Criminal procedure, when someone causes your arrest without sufficient grounds, the Magistrate may order such person to pay compensation to the person wrongfully arrested.

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    Prosecuting public servants

    Note that to prosecute a public servant (including police and armed forces) for an act committed by him/her during his official duty, you will need the ‘sanction’ (authorisation) of the Public Prosecutor is needed.

Facing charges and asking for compensation once the charges against you have ended

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Facing charges and asking for compensation once the charges against you have ended 

When you are facing criminal trial 

Applying for bail

If you are already arrested and detained, you can ask for bail to the Court, when you first appear before it or at any other time. If the offence you are charged with is bailable, then the Court is obliged to grant bail, whereas if the offence is non-bailable, it is upon the discretion of the court to grant it or not. 

Note that not all offences are bailable. Bail can be asked for less serious offences.

Challenging the legality of your arrest

If you have been illegally arrested or detained, you can file a habeas corpus petition, asking the court to decide whether your arrest was illegal and order your release. 

By way of indication, you can file a habeas corpus if:

  • You are not produced before within 24 hours of your arrest;     
  • You are arrested without a lawful reason;
  • You are arrested on the basis of an unconstitutional law i.e., a law against the provisions of the Malaysian Constitution;
  • Your detention was done with mala fide intent, or with the intent to harm the persons; or
  • You are maltreated by the detaining authorities;
  • If the court deems that your arrest has been illegal, you should be released from custody. Note however, that habeas corpus cannot be filed for detention under any law providing for preventative detention.
  • In your petition, you can also ask for compensation for your illegal arrest and detention.

Where should you file your petition

You should file your case before the High Court. If your case is rejected, you can appeal to the Court of Appeal and may seek leave to appeal to the Federal Court thereafter.

Note also, that depending on your case, it might be beneficial to file a petition to the High Court, asking for a:

  • Writ of Mandamus: with this petition you ask the higher courts to order the lower court, tribunal, forum or any other public authority to perform a public or statutory duty and to do any act that forms part of their official duties and they have failed to perform.
  • Writ Of Prohibition: with this petition you ask the higher courts to prohibit lower courts, including the tribunals, forums, or any public authority (magistrate, commissions, or any other judicial officers), from exceeding their jurisdiction, when they do something which exceeds their jurisdiction.
  • Writ of Certiorari: with this petition you transfer the matter before a superior authority for proper consideration because the lower one has exceeded or did not have jurisdiction. The higher court can quash an order already passed by an inferior court, tribunal, or quasi-judicial authority.

By way of indication, if the circumstances of your case so allow, you can file for a writ of certiorari, asking the High Court to quash the police report or the arrest warrant filed against you. 

Asking compensation for accusation without reasonable cause

Under article 250 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, you can ask for compensation, in criminal cases that fulfil the following requirements:

  1. The case was initiated by a complaint or information given to a police officer or Magistrate.
  2. You  are finally acquitted.
  3. And the Magistrate believes that there was no reasonable ground for the accusation.

Provided that those conditions are met, the Magistrate can order the person who made the accusation to pay you compensation.

Filing an appeal

If you consider that your arrest, detention, and prosecution were unlawful and you are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you can file an appeal to the High Court (from the lower courts) and to the Court of Appeal (with leave, from the Sessions Court).

The High Court or Court of Appeal have the power to revise the decision made in the subordinate courts and order the court to set aside the ruling and substitute its own (for instance, where a judge or magistrate has allowed a defence submission of no-case-to-answer at the close of the prosecution’s case, the reviewing judge in the superior court can set aside the ruling of the judge/magistrate and order the case to proceed and call for the accused to enter his defence).

Once the charges against you have ended

Asking compensation from the state and/or the state official

If you have suffered harm due to your illegal arrest and detention, you can initiate a civil case for tort. With the tort lawsuit you can ask the offender for ‘damages’ for the harm, injury, or loss that you suffered, on the ground of tortious act by a public servant. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the act of the public servant could qualify for the tort of ‘trespass to person,’ if the public servant assaulted you or ‘negligence’ if he/she injured you by violating his duty of care towards you. Most importantly, you can sue the state official for the tort of malicious prosecution. In this suit, you should claim that the state official instituted malicious proceedings, without reasonable and probable cause, terminated in your favour and that you have suffered damage. Overall, you must show that the state official defendant had wrongfully set the law in motion and that you have suffered some damage or injury in consequence thereof. 

Note that according to Government Proceedings Act 1956, section 5, you can choose to direct your civil claim against the government, instead of the state official. In this case, you can claim that the government was negligent in relation to acts done by its public officers. You can, again, ask for damages, injunction, or an order of specific performance.

What can you ask for? 

You can ask the court for:     

  1. Damages, which means monetary compensation for the damage you suffered, pain and suffering, loss of future earning and loss of earning capacity (in the form of general, special, and contemptuous damages);     
  2. Injunction, which means an order from the court that restricts the continuance of the wrongful act or omission.


Your claim should be filed to the appropriate court depending on the location where your claim arose (territorial Jurisdiction) and the monetary value of your claim.

  • If the amount of your dispute does not exceed RM10,000, you should file your lawsuit before the Second-Class Magistrate.
  • If the amount of your dispute does not exceed RM100,000, you should file your lawsuit before the First-Class Magistrate.
  • If the amount of your dispute does not exceed RM1,000,000, you should file your lawsuit before the Sessions Court.
  • If the amount of your dispute exceeds RM1,000,000, you should file your lawsuit before the High Court.

 What if you are not satisfied/you do not agree with the judgment of the court

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, you can resort to a higher court for the purpose of obtaining a review and reversal of the lower court’s judgement, by filing an appeal. The appeal should be filed to the High Court if the first instance judgment was delivered by the Sessions or Magistrate Court, and to the Federal Court if the first instance judgment was delivered by the High Court.

File a Complaint with the Administrative Authority or State Commission

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

File a complaint with the Administrative Authority

Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission 

If you are illegally arrested by an enforcement officer because of your work on business-related human rights abuses, you can approach the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission. Enforcement officers are mainly police officers, but it can also be officers of the immigration Department, the anti-drug agency, the Labour Department, and the Department of the Environment.

For what kind of situations can you file a complaint

You can file a complaint if an enforcement officer committed a criminal offence, failed to follow the law, or carried out an action that was contrary to the law, or unjustified, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory.

By way of indication, you can file a complaint if your case is like the ones below:

  • Complaints are not taken properly by an enforcement officer, failure to record the details given by the complainant.
  • The investigation took too long, and the complainant was not informed about the status of the investigation.
  • Delayed investigation by an enforcement officer.
  • Charges imposed without facts or legal basis.
  • Instructions or actions taken by an enforcement officer in favour of certain parties.
  • The investigation papers closed too fast, e.g., in 1-3 days.
  • No action taken by enforcement agency despite crime has been reported and criminal are identified.

What can you expect

The Commission will investigate your complaint. If the complaint is of disciplinary nature, it will refer it to the appropriate Disciplinary Authority. If it is of criminal nature, it will refer it to the public prosecutor, whereas if it concerns corruption, it will refer it to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

How do you complain

All complaints must be made ​​in writing, by:

Public Complaints Bureau

If you were illegally arrested by a public officer, you can approach the Public Complaints Bureau. 

What type of complaints can you file to the Bureau

You can file complaints, when there is action by a state official that is unjust, not in accordance with existing laws and regulations, based on abuse of power, and when there is misconduct of public servants, delay or non-delivery of services, lack of public facilities and other inefficiencies. Indicatively, your complaint might refer to:

How can you file the complaint

You can file your complaint by telephone, email, and online form at the following website:

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    If you are a woman human rights defender, who has suffered harm through a wrong, unfair, or unlawful action of the government agencies and officials, you can file a complaint to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. The Ministry will investigate your complaint, consult with relevant agencies, and issue appropriate recommendations.

    What are the specific types of complaints filed

    The types of complaints received by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development are about delays, lack of action, unfair actions, lack of public facilities, policy flaws and legal weaknesses, abuse of power/distortion, misconduct of public servants, failure to follow procedures, failure of enforcement and unsatisfactory quality of service.


    You can submit a complaint by phone, present it in person, write a letter or fax. You also use the following website Government of Malaysia - Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (

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    If you are victimised due to your work protecting environmental rights, you should consider informing the Director General of Environmental Quality, by filing a complaint.

    You can submit your complaint online here DOE e-Complaint System.

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    If you are victimised due to your work protecting environmental rights, you should consider informing the Director General of Environmental Quality, by filing a complaint.

    You can submit your complaint online here DOE e-Complaint System.

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission or the Ombudsman

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission

National Human Rights Commission (SUKAHAM)

If a state official or public entity has engaged in activity that violates your fundamental rights, you can file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (SUKAHAM). The National Human Rights Commission accepts and investigates complaints of human rights violations, unless there is a related court case pending or the case has been fully determined by the Court. 

What can you expect

SUKAHAM, upon receiving your complaint, will communicate with the relevant government agency and/or the parties to the complaint, to enquire into the subject matter of the complaint. When the Commission identifies a pattern of human rights violations, it will start a national inquiry, instead of examining the complaints one by one. 

SUKAHAM also has the power to make appropriate recommendations, such as proposing new legislation, revisions of existing legislation or new policy measures or suggesting any remedies necessary to the affected party or the complainants. However, SUHAKAM does not have the authority to enforce those recommendations.

Report it to the International Community

Report it to the International Community

International Human Rights Protection

Malaysia has ratified several international human rights treaties. Those treaties provide you with certain rights and the state with certain obligations. For every right that you have, the state has a corresponding obligation to respect and fulfil that right and to protect you against abuse of that right by third parties. This means providing the necessary tools so that you can enjoy that right.

Malaysia has ratified the following international human rights treaties:

  1. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 
  2. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
  3. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC)
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC)
  5. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

In addition, the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights apply to all states. The Guiding Principles implement the UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework, which rests on three pillars:

  1. that the state has a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication;
  2. that corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur; and 
  3. that, the state, as part of its duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses, must take appropriate steps to ensure that when such abuses occur, those affected have access to effective remedy through judicial and non-judicial means. 

Therefore, if your rights have been violated by a state agency or official, then the state will be responsible for this violation. If a corporation has committed an abuse against you, then the state will have responsibility for failing to protect you against that abuse. The state might also incur responsibility, if it did not adequately investigate your case or did not provide you with an avenue to seek a remedy. 

Depending on the right that has been violated, you might also have different options to engage the international community and seek redress.

If your rights as a woman, a child or a person with disabilities have been violated, the respective legal framework foresees complaints mechanisms, or Committees where you can seek a remedy. 

However, Malaysia has not thus far ratified any Optional Protocols which allow for individual communications to be made under the treaties and therefore there is no process that will result in a concrete remedy for you. However, you should consider approaching the international community and making your case internationally. As will be analysed below, this can be useful in improving the human rights situation in your country.

UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures

The Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council (‘Special Procedures’) are independent human rights experts (‘Rapporteurs’) and ‘Working Groups’ with mandates to report and advise on thematic human rights issues. 

With the support of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures can:

  • Undertakcountry visits
  • Act on individual cases of reported violations and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others
  • Contribute to the development of international human rights standards, and
  • Engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation.

In cases of business-related human rights abuses, you can draw the attention of your government and raise public awareness by submitting a complaint to the Special Procedures. You can submit a complaint to the Special Procedures if you have suffered an abuse by the state or by a business. Where a business has caused the harm, the state is also responsible for failing to protect you, investigate the harm, and/or provide remedies.

The UN has established various Special Procedures. In cases of attacks against human rights defenders that work on business and human rights issues, the most relevant are:

  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (also referred to as the “UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights”)
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change
  • Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment
  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
  • Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes

These are just a few of the Special Procedures. You can find a comprehensive list here:

In addition, in June 2022, the world’s first Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders was elected under the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention).  The function of this new Special Rapporteur is to ‘take measures to protect any person experiencing or at imminent threat of penalization, persecution, or harassment for seeking to exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention'. You can submit a complaint to the Special Rapporteur even if domestic remedies have not been exhausted and any information submitted will be kept confidential.  The new Special Rapporteur has various tools for resolving complaints and protecting environmental defenders quickly including: 

  • Issuing immediate protection measures; 
  • Using diplomatic channels;  
  • Issuing public statements; and  
  • Bringing the matter to the attention of human rights bodies and the government concerned. 

Who can submit information

Information submitted to the mandate-holders may be sent by a person or a group of persons who claim to be the victim(s) of human rights abuses. Non-governmental organizations (‘NGOs’) can also submit information, provided they have direct and reliable knowledge of the alleged abuse. 

Under what conditions

Your communication should fulfil the following conditions:

  1. Communications must not be exclusively based on mass media reports. 
  2. The communication should contain a factual description of the alleged human rights abuses, especially any available information as to the date and place of the incidents, alleged perpetrators, suspected motives, and contextual information.
  3. The communication should be submitted based on credible and detailed information.
  4. Include full details of the sender’s identity, address, the name of each victim (or any other identifying information), or of any community or organization subject to the alleged abuse. In communications to governments, the mandate-holders normally preserve the confidentiality of their information source, except where the source requests that its identity be revealed. 
  5. Indicate any steps you have already taken at the national, regional, or international level in relation to the case. However, you do not need to have exhausted domestic remedies to have your allegation examined by Special Procedures.

How to submit information?

The application for all Special Procedures is the same. Upon receiving the information on your case, the UN will notify the relevant mandate holders. Therefore, you do not have to choose the specific mandate holder for your case, but you must present your case so that all appropriate offices are notified.

Any communication addressed to Special Procedures mandate-holders must clearly indicate what the concern is in the subject heading of the message and be addressed to: 

Special Procedures Division c/o OHCHR-UNOG

 8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211 Genève 10, Switzerland 

Fax: +4122 917 90 06 

Email: (for complains and individual cases) 

For any other information:

You can find the link here:

What should you expect?

It is left to the discretion of the mandate-holder to decide whether to act on a given situation. Usually, the Special Procedure will investigate the case and send a letter to the government regarding the abuse that you reported. The letter will ask for clarifications. Where necessary, the Rapporteurs may request that the concerned authorities take action to prevent or stop the abuse, investigate it, bring to justice those responsible and/or make sure that remedies are available to the victim(s) or their families. In these letters, the Rapporteurs may also inform the state of the applicable human rights provisions. In cases where the state is repeatedly failing to reply, the mandate holder might issue a press release. Upon receiving information on abuses, mandate-holders may carry out visits to countries to investigate the human rights situation on the ground. 

Note that the Special Procedures Rapporteurs do not have power or authority to enforce their views or recommendations.

Who can you reach out to for support? 

To increase exposure and collaboration with the OHCHR, it is recommended that you build relationships with your local OHCHR office. A Human Rights Adviser (HRA) is part of the UN Country Team (UNCT) in Malaysia.

6 Office of the Resident Coordinator

83, Jalan 4, Taman Tan Yew Lai,

58200 Kuala Lumpur,

Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur,


Tel. +66-2-304-9100

If possible, it is also recommended to visit the OHCHR in Geneva or network with organisations that work directly with the OHCHR. 

The Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council

What is the Procedure? 

It is a confidential procedure that aims to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations in all UN member states, irrespective of whether they have ratified any particular treaty. It is useful for drawing attention to serious underlying problems and calling on the UN to investigate human rights situations in different countries. However, it is not a procedure that will provide a tangible remedy in a particular case.

Who can submit a complaint? 

The complaint  must come from a person or a group of persons alleging a violation of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, NGOs are permitted to lodge a communication provided they have direct and reliable knowledge of the violations. 

Under what conditions? 

Your complaint will be admissible if the following conditions are met: 

  1. It should include your name or the name of the organization who is filing it. Its subject should be consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and international human rights law. Your application should not be politically motivated.
  2. Your complaint should give a complete description of the facts of the alleged violations, the rights that were violated as well as the perpetrator(s). It should not be based exclusively on mass media reports. 
  3. You should attach to your complaint  copies of all documents of relevance, especially administrative or judicial decisions on the complaints issued by national authorities. The language of the communication must not be abusive. 
  4. Your complaint should not have already been dealt with by a Special Procedure, a treaty body, or any other UN or similar regional complaints procedures in the field of human rights. 
  5. You should have first exhausted domestic remedies, (i.e., you should attempt to use the available national legal protections to seek accountability or reparation for the violation, appealing as necessary until the claim can be pursued no further at the national level), unless those remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged. You should demonstrate the steps you took to exhaust domestic remedies in your application.

Process for filing under that procedure? 

You should send your complaint to:

Complaint Procedure Unit

Human Rights Council Branch

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations Office at Geneva

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Or by e-mail to: or to any country or regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

What should you expect?

After an initial screening is done, your complaint will be transmitted to the State concerned to obtain their views on the allegations of violations contained therein. You will be informed of the proceedings at the key stages and you might be asked to provide further information if necessary. 

The Human Rights Council will examine a report of your case in a confidential manner (unless it decides otherwise) and may decide one of the following: to discontinue considering the situation when further consideration or action is not warranted; to keep the situation under review and request the State concerned to provide further information within a reasonable period of time; to keep the situation under review and appoint an independent and highly qualified expert to monitor the situation and report back to the Council; to discontinue reviewing the matter under the confidential complaint procedure in order to take up public consideration of it; to recommend to OHCHR to provide technical cooperation, capacity building assistance or advisory services to the State concerned. 

All material provided by individuals as well as the replies by the Governments remain of confidential nature during and after the consideration by the Complaint Procedure.

International Labour Organization - Representations’ procedure

The International Labour Organization (‘ILO’) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, responsible for developing and overseeing international labour standards. It has adopted 189 Conventions. The most important of them are the eight fundamental Conventions, which cover a broad range of topics concerning work, employment, social security, social policy and related human rights. They are legally binding on the states that have ratified them. 

Malaysia has ratified the following fundamental conventions: 

  • Forced Labour Convention (No. 29)
  • Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No.98)
  • Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100) 
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105)
  • Minimum Age Convention (No. 138)
  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182)

You can find the Conventions ratified by Malaysia here.

What protections does the ILO offer

If any of your rights that are protected by an ILO Convention have been violated by your state, then you should consider approaching the ILO, through the ‘Representations’ procedure.’ 

The procedure allows employers’ or workers’ organizations to make a representation against any Member State that has failed to respect the convention. You can also resort to that procedure, if a private company is violating your rights, and your state fails to protect you.

Who can file a complaint?

Individual victims are not permitted to file complaints before this Committee. Rather, you should inform a national or international organization of workers (trade union) and they can file the complaint on your behalf. In Malaysia this includes the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC). More details can be found here.


The representation must:

  1. allege that a Member State has failed to adhere to a Convention which it has ratified;
  2. be communicated to the ILO in writing;
  3. come from an industrial association of employers or workers;
  4. make specific reference to article 24 of the ILO Constitution;
  5. concern a Member State of the ILO;
  6. refer to a Convention to which the Member State in question is a party; and
  7. indicate in what respect it is alleged that that Member State has failed to secure the effective observance within its jurisdiction of that Convention.

Note that it is not necessary to exhaust all domestic remedies before applying for representation with the ILO. If a case is pending before a national court, this will be taken into consideration by the ad hoc Committee. 

How to submit a representation?

All applications should be addressed to the Director General at the following address: 

4 Route des Morillons, CH-1211 Genève 22, Switzerland 

Or by email to:  

Complementary Strategies

Complementary Strategies

Achieving justice and remedy for the abuses that you suffered as a human rights defender working on business-related human rights abuses can be a lengthy and difficult process. It may require a combination of patience and strategy, and you may have to call on different resources to achieve your goal. A comprehensive approach may include using legal remedies together with other kinds of complementary strategies such as strategic campaigning, shareholder accountability strategies, grassroots mobilisation, coalition building or gaining media attention. 

It can be overwhelming to think about these considerations right after an abuse has taken place. Before thinking about the strategies, you want to use, try to make sure you are both physically and mentally safe and strong. 

Remember that you are not alone in this situation and that there are a range of organisations that can help you and provide you with immediate support in case of an emergency or financial, legal and psychological difficulties. See Resource Hub.

Building a Strategic Campaign

The first thing you may want to consider is building a strategic campaign. A strategic campaign aims to exert pressure on the different strategic relationships of a business or state actor. To develop a strategic campaign, you should carefully analyse your situation and decide which actions will have the most positive impact for your case. 

For example, you will have to decide whether you want to deal with your case publicly or privately, loudly or quietly, in a manner that takes into account the political and other sensitivities that exist in your country. The purpose of the strategic campaign is for you to get a clear picture of the situation, the direction you want to take your case and the concrete actions you can attempt to take to achieve this result. 

This whole process will be demanding on your resources and your mental and physical health so do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help from organisations that are used to dealing with similar cases! There is no shame in doing so and they can provide you with valuable expertise. See Resource Hub.

To build a strategic campaign you and your collaborators can follow these five steps:

1- Identify your objectives and overall goal: You can do this by asking yourself questions such as What do I want to happen? What do I hope to achieve?

Your overall goal will be the long term and general outcome that you want to achieve. To reach this goal you will need to identify smaller steps and specific milestones that need to take place, these will be your objectives. 

! When deciding on your objectives, make sure that they are SMART:

  • Specific - well detailed, well defined and action oriented;
  • Measurable- meaning that you can quantify and have an indicator of progress;
  • Achievable- meaning that they can be realistically accomplished in the proposed time-frame and with the resources you possess;
  • Relevant- meaning that they are relevant to your overall goal and work;
  • Time-Bound- meaning that you have set a clear deadline. 

2- Take the time to do a policy analysis and identify your audience: You can identify the policies and regulations that need to change, the key actions and stakeholders who can influence decisions and understand the overall political context that will influence your overall goal. You will further need to identify the stakeholders that can help you achieve your objectives. For example, who are the decision makers involved in the issue? What are the power dynamics at play? You should understand why and how each audience you approach can play a role in reaching your goal or can hinder it. Do not forget, when considering actors that could hinder your goal, to be as specific as possible and write down all details you can find on them including their names and functions. 

! Note that if some corporate actors can hinder your goal, other business representatives might help you achieve it! Businesses do not all have the same policies and attitudes when it comes to the respect of human rights and the environment. By interacting with business representatives and industry groups you might find valuable allies that can provide you with support in a variety of ways including testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf. 

3- Identify your strengths, weaknesses and your message: It will be helpful for you to reflect on your internal strengths - skills, knowledge, resources, past experience - and weaknesses - missing networks, capacity for lobbying, contacts in the media or funding. Once you have identified these, you can search for opportunities that exist around you and will enable you to tackle your weaknesses and achieve your objectives. You should further consider the threats that could prevent you from achieving your objectives by asking yourself who are your opponents? Is there a negative political climate around your objective? Identifying them early will enable you to minimise the damage and safety risks they can present.

Once you have reflected on your strengths and weaknesses, you will need to identify what your audience needs to hear and present your message in a persuasive and appealing way. At their core, your messages should be the same, however, depending on the audience you will target, you will need to adapt the way they are framed. Most of the time, advocacy messages have two major components: (1) a calling for what is right and (2) a calling for the audience’s self-interest. You can find different methods to develop advocacy messages by using the key words “advocacy message” and “effective” on Google.

4- Identify your tactics and activities: Depending on your situation and objectives, you will have to use different strategies and tactics to reach your goal. To choose the appropriate tactics for you to use, you can develop a ‘results chain’. The chain will start with your overall goal and outline the small steps you will need to take to get there. In your chain you can describe the assumptions you are making about the impact of the activities you plan on doing. This will help you reflect on your logic and might show you missing activities. It will further help you understand the kind of resources, be it financial or volunteers, that you will need to put your campaign into action. There are various organisations that you can reach out to for financial support. See Resource Hub

A few examples of activities include one-to-one meetings with high level representatives, the organisation of workshops and conferences, the drafting of a letter to international civil servants, a mass participation event engaging members of the community, social media posts or petitions. 

5- Monitor and Evaluate: Finally, you want to make sure that you are keeping track of the efforts you are putting into your campaign to ensure that they are working. You will also want to organise meetings to monitor the campaign and make sure it is going in the direction you want. 

Grassroots Mobilisation

Grassroots mobilisation is about bringing together individuals - in your district, region, or community - to influence a specific outcome. It is one of the key elements in successful campaign strategies. Grassroots mobilisation can be highly effective, as we have seen with the #SaveAru movement, because it uses collective action at a local level to influence outcomes at the national level. When every member of the community is participating in ways that they can, and are equally responsible and invested in the cause, the movement is truly powered by collective leadership. The costs of the movement are further distributed between all members of the community and thereby become more affordable. 

To build grassroots mobilisation, you and your collaborators can follow five simple steps: 

1- Identify the cause you want to address and make a plan of action;

2- Find supporters and volunteers to join your campaign; 

3- Reach out and partner with local organisations and community leaders;

4- Implement your plan of action; and

5- Regularly evaluate your progress. 

! Do not forget that, when it comes to mobilising members of a community, listening and understanding is more important than influencing and persuading. Having several short conversations will be more efficient than a one-off long speech to a general audience! 

To get started, you should identify the cause you want to address 

(1). The problem that you want to tackle most probably has a root cause. For example, it can be the lack of respect for human rights and the environment by a company which operates in proximity to your village and has threatened you; the absence of legislation by the government to protect people defending the environment; or the inefficiency of local government officials to implement a law, among other potential root causes. You need to identify the root cause you want to tackle so that you can clearly define the actions and steps you want to take to resolve the issue. Defining the outcome, you are looking to achieve will also be crucial to give your movement a clear direction. 

Once you have identified the cause you want to address, you can start creating awareness about your campaign and get interest from individuals in the community 

(2). Communication will play a key role here and you can use different approaches such as door-to-door canvassing, face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls or social media to reach as many community members as possible. Having a campaign website or a Facebook page can be a useful tool to speed up this process and will make you gain important visibility online! It will further constitute a good opportunity to start building the next step by building a list of potential partner organisations. 

Using your website and the networks of members from the community you can approach like-minded local organisations and community leaders. See Resource Hub.

(3). To reach out to them you could offer to give a short presentation about your campaign during their events or simply provide your help during their rallies to get to know like-minded people and talk about your campaign. Usually, civil society organisations have dealt with or assisted defenders in similar contexts in the past. They can share their valuable experience with you, guide you on what to do, explain the law and your rights, guide you on where to find support and identify pro bono lawyers that can help you plead your case or provide support in building an advocacy campaign. 

! You should not ignore community leaders! Community leaders can be valuable allies that you can collaborate with to convey important messages of your campaign. If a community leader endorses the changes and propositions you raise, they will be more likely to be accepted and followed by the community and your movement will gain traction. Examples of community leaders that can help you are religious leaders, local political office holders or village figureheads. 

Once you have built a solid basis of supporters you can start implementing your plan of action 

(4). You can take a variety of actions as part of your plan including rallies, outdoor events, in-house groups, training sessions, organising for a group of volunteers to exchange with the local representative or staging a demonstration. No matter the activity that you choose to conduct, the key to success will be having successful communication. You can keep your supporters up to date on actions conducted through SMS, WhatsApp, and encrypted apps such as Telegram and/or post your announcements for events on your campaign website and Facebook page. Do not forget to communicate with your organisers and volunteer team to make sure everyone has the same information including the date, time, and place of the events. 

During your campaign, you can organise regular meetings with your supporters to evaluate the success of your actions 

(5). This will enable you to reflect on what went well and what did not and give you avenues for improving your upcoming events. At the end of the campaign, it will also enable you to see if you have reached your objectives. 

Coalition Building

Reaching out to other organisations and talking about your case will give you the opportunity to build coalitions. A coalition is a temporary alliance of individuals, groups or organisations that want to achieve a common goal. Forming a coalition with other organisations that have similar values, interests, and goals as your own will allow you to combine your resources and thereby have more impact than if you acted alone. It can be of great help to shift the balance of power and increase the impact of each of your organisation's efforts. Actions taken by the coalition can be focused towards bringing attention to your and other human rights defender cases in the media, requesting for a motion filed by lawyers to be considered or request the international community to act. 

To successfully build a coalition you need to take a series of steps.

  1. Before anything else, you should define what your main goal is. Your main goal will be at the centre of the initiative and organisations that you are going to approach are going to ask about it regularly. Ideally, you want to be able to present your goal in a manner that is easy to understand and appears attainable. To do so, you can present it through bullet points illustrating the key ideas and goals and condense it to one sentence. 
  2. Then you should identify your key stakeholders, leaders, and players. You should be strategic when choosing the organisations to enrol in your coalitions, recognising compatible interests between you, your organisation and other groups or organisations. Stakeholders may include local civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations and national or international trade unions. 
  3. Once you have identified who you want to be a part of your coalition, you can start approaching and trying to mobilise them. You may need to demonstrate to the organisations that your goals are similar and compatible. You can also show them how working together will have a positive impact on everyone’s ability to reach their objectives and that the benefits from building a coalition will outweigh the costs. 
  4. While attempting to mobilise partner organisations, you must keep in mind that building a coalition can be a long process and that your short-term goals might transform into longer-term battles. Keep committed to your objectives, with a little flexibility, so you can take advantage of new and innovative opportunities to reach your goals. Also take into account that the level of commitment of your partner organisations will differ, and although it is perfectly normal, you should hold tight to the organisations that are in it for the long haul. To do so you can see them as a steering committee for your coalition and regularly require their inputs. 
  5. Once you have gathered all members of your coalition, you can host an event to bring all of them together and connect with one another, collaboratively discuss your goals, and show them the actions you had in mind. Adding value to your event can help attract participants. For example, you could invite a guest speaker, provide training, or build the event around a known human rights celebration. 
  6. As you will move forward with your coalition, keep in mind to follow up with your members. Regularly thanking them for their input and recognising their efforts will keep everyone motivated and encourage initiatives. You can achieve that by using email newsletters, posts on social media or SMS channels and face-to-face meetings. 

Bring media attention to your case

Another complementary strategy for your case may be to gain visibility and attention by getting media coverage. Before deciding if you want to use this strategy, you should ask yourself whether you want your case to be publicly known and talked about or if you would rather go about, it quietly. Gaining media coverage can play a pivotal role in presenting your case, promoting it in public debate and positively shaping public opinion in your favour. However, this may expose you to further retaliation, as companies may use strategic lawsuits against public participation [See Section on SLAPPs] to try to silence you. For example, the company could bring a defamation suit against you, the journalist who interviewed you and/or the organisation that published the article. Importantly, you must be careful that the journalist does not reveal your current location so as not to compromise your safety.

To attract media coverage, your story should be prepared in such a way as to catch the attention of readers. You can do this by highlighting why your organisation exists, how important your work is to society and by providing details about the abuse that you have suffered. If you can, try to link your story to an issue that is currently talked about in the public space as this will be more likely to interest the media. Finally, if you can show how your story affects other people and has an impact on wider society, this will increase the interest of newspapers. 

Once your story is ready, you can use social media to promote it by publishing blog posts, Instagram stories, Facebook posts and/or tweets. This will enable you to gain public attention and establish your cause before getting traditional media interested in what you have to say. 

If you want the attention of mainstream media, you can collaborate with other national and international organisations to contact reporters. You can reach journalists by email, through their social networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter) or through partner organisations. You will have a better chance of getting your interview request accepted if you choose journalists who are used to covering the same kind of story as yours. 

! Be aware that journalists can receive a lot of requests so keep your emails short and to the point! 

If you don't get a response to your first contact request, you can follow up by tweeting the reporter or trying to contact them by phone. Don't get discouraged as getting media attention can be a long process during which you may end up sending your story to twenty journalists before one responds. 

When a journalist becomes interested in your story, they will most likely want to talk to you in person. To make sure you are well prepared for the interview, keep in mind three key points you want to make and practice answering questions with a colleague. 

Once the interview is over, do not forget to thank the journalist for his or her time. Following the publication of the article, you can forward it to regional or national newspapers thereby gaining exposure and/or circulate it among your partner organisations.

Bring attention to your case to other businesses and industry groups

Although business-related human rights abuses find corporate actors at the heart of the human rights abuses, you should not forget that businesses and industry groups do not all have the same policies, attitudes, and views when it comes to the respect for human rights and the environment. 

You might want to look for allies in the private sector by reaching out to business representatives and industry groups and explain the issues you are facing. Private actors might become valuable allies who can provide you with support in a variety of ways including by testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf.

Bring attention to your case at the international level

Equally important is to make your case known at international level. 

National and international non-governmental organisations are allies in your strategic campaign and have a fundamental role to play in channelling information to relevant institutions abroad. One of their main tasks is to submit the so-called shadow reports to international bodies or during the Universal Periodic Review Process. Those reports analyse how and if the government is realising human rights at the national level and provide the necessary background information to international organisations. In turn, if the shadow reports reveal information on serious and systematic violations of the rights protected by the conventions in the country concerned, international institutions can initiate inquiries or visits to the territory of a State Party. By making your case known to NGOs and INGOs, it can be included in their shadow report. Although this will not give you a tangible remedy, you will have added your brick to the wall of human rights in your country. 

You can also bring international attention to your case through the various organisations worldwide that work to protect human rights defenders - including Frontline DefendersProtect Defenders and Peace Brigades International. You can register your case with one of them, and they will identify the best ways to support you internationally. Be aware that they may publish something on their website or link you with other victims or experts worldwide. If your case is widely known, the offenders might hesitate to retaliate against you in the future. There are also many organisations that work on business and human rights issues that can share legal resources with you, both domestically and internationally. Most importantly, both kinds of organisations can direct you on where to find funding and donors to continue your legal case and to propose other resources necessary for your work as a human rights defender.

Bring attention to your case in political spheres

You can also contact political figures to draw attention to your case. For example, you can ask a foreign diplomat - by contacting the foreign ministry of the country in question or the embassy - to listen to your story, to come to your trial or simply to have a photo taken with you. This will show your abuser that your case is being taken seriously at the international level and may make them think carefully about retaliatory actions in the future. 

If you are uncomfortable with contacting diplomats of foreign countries, you can contact international civil servants instead. International civil servants are not linked to a specific country but rather to an organisation. To contact them, you can look up the offices of OHCHR, UNDP or the ILO in your country. These organisations often organise informal events such as consultations and webinars during which you can have the opportunity to raise your concerns and build a support network.