TAG stands with Lena Hendry following conviction
By Together Against Genocide (TAG), Thursday, February 23 2017
Prominent activist Lena Hendry has been convicted by a court in Malaysia over the charge of screening a Sri Lankan civil war documentary without prior consent from the country’s Censorship Board.
The offence is alleged to have occurred at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall at Jalan Maharajalela on 3 July 2013. Under Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002, so-called illegal screenings carry a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to RM30,000, or both, on conviction.
The documentary in question was “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka", directed by award-winning British filmmaker Callum Macrae. The film explores the alleged oppression of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.
The judge ruled that Hendry’s defence team had failed to raise reasonable doubt in the case, suggesting that the court had presupposed Hendry’s guilt.
Hendry, who is a programme coordinator for human rights group Pusat Komas, said she was deeply disappointed by the judgement. There was a great deal of support for her both inside and outside the courtroom.
One such supporter was Ivy Josiah, who is a member of Hakam's (National Human Rights Society) executive committee and a former executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation. Josiah said the judgement was disappointing, not least because the film has been shown almost everywhere in the world.
The judgement is the latest chapter in a long-running legal saga which saw Hendry acquitted of all charges in March last year, only for the acquittal to be set aside by a High Court in September.
Laurent Meillan, who is the acting regional representative of OHCHR’s South-East Asia regional office, said: “Hendry’s conviction for showing a film is a clear violation of her right to freedom of expression and assembly, and we urge the authorities to re-examine the case in line with international human rights law.”
Andrew Thorpe-Apps, advocacy officer at TAG, said: “We join with all human rights activists in supporting Lena Hendry and we believe that this conviction represents a clear breach of international law.”
Hendry's bail of RM1,000 has been extended pending disposal of the case. She is due to be sentenced on 22 March.