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Anwar Ibrahim is the Malaysian Government’s moral and legal responsibility

Since November 2000, Anwar Ibrahim has been languishing in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) inflicted with a serious spine ailment. Anwar is unable to move around unattended and is constantly on painkillers to help alleviate his suffering.

Since November 2000, Anwar Ibrahim has been engaged in a tug-of-war with the Malaysian authorities. Anwar is seeking the medical treatment of his choice but the authorities are denying him this choice.

Finally, the government allowed a foreign spine specialist, Dr Thomas Hoogland from the Alpha Klinik in Munich, to attend to Anwar – though permission was granted with great reluctance and only after pressure from all quarters. The terms laid down on Dr Hoogland were restrictive but complied with nevertheless.

Dr Hoogland, assisted by a panel of ten experts from the HKL that included three orthopedic surgeons, three neurosurgeons, two radiologists, a neurologist and a anesthesiologist, have unanimously agreed on the following:

  1. That Anwar Ibrahim requires immediate surgery and that this must be done within the next four to six weeks.
  2. That the type of surgery recommended is the endoscopic spine procedure.
  3. That HKL’s facilities are not up to mark to be able to guarantee a successful operation.
The Malaysian government, however, disputes this diagnosis and says that the operation can be done locally in the HKL though they do not dispute the fact that Anwar does require surgery and that the type of surgery recommended is the endoscopic spine procedure.

The International Free Anwar Campaign would like to remind the Malaysian government that Anwar Ibrahim is the responsibility of the Malaysian government. Anwar was injured while under detention and when he was yet to be charged for or found guilty of any offense. And Anwar was injured by no less than the Chief of Police himself - who has admitted to the deed and pronounced guilty by a Malaysian court.

Dr Hoogland’s diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry set up by the Malaysian government – in that Anwar was assaulted by the Chief of Police while under detention on 20 September 1998, which resulted in his present medical ailment.

In fact, Anwar is not only the responsibility of the Malaysian government, but also his medical problem can be blamed on the government. The Malaysian government, therefore, must see to it that Anwar is not only given proper medical treatment, but also the medical treatment of his choice.

This is Anwar’s right.

The International Free Anwar Campaign would like to bring to the Malaysian government’s attention the "Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners" as adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990. In this Resolution it says:

  1. All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
  2. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  3. Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.
  4. Discipline and order shall be maintained with firmness, but with no more restriction than is necessary for safe custody and well-ordered community life.
  5. Imprisonment and other measures which result in cutting off an offender from the outside world are afflictive by the very fact of taking from the person the right of self-determination by depriving him of his liberty. Therefore the prison system shall not, except as incidental to justifiable segregation or the maintenance of discipline, aggravate the suffering inherent in such a situation.
  6. The regime of the institution should seek to minimize any differences between prison life and life at liberty which tend to lessen the responsibility of the prisoners or the respect due to their dignity as human beings.
This UN Resolution clearly shows that it is an Internationally accepted fact and practice that a prisoner does not lose his right of proper medical treatment just because he is a prisoner. This is more so in Anwar Ibrahim’s case seeing that his medical problem was brought on by physical abuse and brutality at the hands of the police while under detention while yet to be convicted of any crime.

The Malaysian government has already been condemned by the world at large on the beating Anwar received at the hands of the police in September 1998. It is an established fact that this beating was what precipitated Anwar’s medical problem. To now deny Anwar proper medical treatment would only add to this condemnation.

For the Malaysian government to deny Anwar proper medical treatment would make it appear like the government is trying to finish its unfinished business started on 20 September 1998. It must be remembered that Anwar was beaten to the point of near-death and left unconscious on the lockup floor, with no medical attention until he was discovered the next day, still unconscious.

The Malaysian government must redeem the wrong done to Anwar on 20 September 1998 by allowing Anwar proper medical treatment and the treatment of his choice.

Dr Abdul Rahim Ghouse

Representative, FAC