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Case History: Lena Hendry

Status: 
Paid Fine
About the situation

On 22 March 2017, Lena Hendry was sentenced to pay a fine of RM 10,000 (about €2,100) or spend a year in jail by the Magistrates’ Court in Kuala Lumpur for screening a documentary on the Sri Lankan civil war titled 'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka' four years ago.

About Lena Hendry

Lena HendryLena Hendry is a Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation which works to empower indigenous peoples, urban poor, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

23 March 2017
Lena Hendry Sentenced

On 22 March 2017, Lena Hendry was sentenced to pay a fine of RM 10,000 (about €2,100) or spend a year in jail by the Magistrates’ Court in Kuala Lumpur for screening a documentary on the Sri Lankan civil war titled 'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka' four years ago.

Lena Hendry is a human rights defender and the former Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation established in 1993 in Malaysia. This organisation works to empower indigenous peoples, poor people in urban areas, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

On 22 March 2017, the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Lumpur sentenced Lena Hendry to a fine of MYR 10,000 or one year in prison for screening 'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka' in 2013. On 21 February 2017, following a successful appeal by the Prosecutor against her acquittal in 2015, Lena Hendry was found guilty  of screening the documentary under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002.  She faced up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding RM 30,000 (approximately €6,600). The fine of RM 10,000 was the maximum amount that could be set by the Magistrates’ Court.

Front Line Defenders condemns the Magistrate’s Court’s decision to sentence Lena Hendry, as it believes it is solely related to her peaceful and legitimate work reporting human rights abuses in Malaysia.

22 February 2017
Lena Hendry convicted

On 21 February 2017, human rights defender Lena Hendry was convicted by the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Lumpur for screening “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. She was charged on 19 September 2013 under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002.

Lena Hendry is a human rights defender and the former Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation established in 1993 in Malaysia. This organisation works to empower indigenous peoples, poor people in urban areas, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

On 21 February 2017, Lena Hendry was found guilty by a magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur for screening “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002. She is currently on bail and intends to appeal the court’s decision. Her sentencing is scheduled for 22 March 2017. She faces up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding RM 30,000 (approximately €6,600).

On 10 March 2016, The Magistrates' Court of Kuala Lumpur acquitted Lena Hendry of the charges but  on 21 September 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur reversed Lena Hendry’s aquittal following an appeal issued by the prosecution.

On 19 September 2013, Lena Hendry was charged under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, for organising a film screening event showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013 without approval from the Film Censorship Board. The documentary details alleged human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war. Lena Hendry was the first human rights defender to be charged under the law, which criminalizes the act of possessing or exhibiting films not approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia.

Front Line Defenders condemns the conviction of Lena Hendry, as it believes that the charges brought against the human rights defender are directly linked to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, in particular in exposing human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Front Line Defenders urges the Malaysian government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia.  
 

23 September 2016
Acquittal of Lena Hendry Reversed

On 21 September 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur reversed the acquittal of human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry for charges under the Film Censorship Act 2002, related to her screening of a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Lena Hendry is a Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation established in 1993 in Malaysia, which works to empower indigenous peoples, urban poor, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

On 21 September 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur permitted the prosecution to appeal the acquittal of Lena Hendry’s case,  and subsequently ruled that the acquittal be reversed. On 10 March 2016, the Magistrates' Court of Kuala Lumpur acquitted the human rights defender of charges under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, for screening a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Lena Hendry faces up to three years imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to RM 30,000 (€6,600). She plans to appeal the decision.

On 19 September 2013, the human rights defender was charged under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, for organising a film screening  of “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013 without approval from the Film Censorship Board. The documentary details alleged human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war. Lena Hendry became the first human rights defender to be charged under the law, which criminalises the act of possessing or exhibiting films not approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia.

Front Line Defenders condemns the decision to reverse of Lena Hendry’s acquittal, as it believes that the charges brought against the human rights defender are directly linked to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, in particular  publicising human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Front Line Defenders urges the Malaysian government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the screening of films in Malaysia.   

14 March 2016
Human rights defender Lena Hendry acquitted

On 10 March 2016, the Magistrates' Court of Kuala Lumpur acquitted human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry of charges under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, for screening a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The court found that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against Lena Hendry and, as a result, ruled to acquit the human rights defender. The ruling of the Magistrates' Court can still be appealed by the prosecution.

On 19 September 2013, Lena Hendry had been charged under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for organising a film screening event showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013 without approval from the Film Censorship Board. The documentary is devoted to alleged human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war. Lena Hendry became the first human rights defender to have been charged under the law, which criminalizes the act of possessing or exhibiting films not approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia. Lena Hendry faced up to three years imprisonment, a fine not exceeding RM 30,000 (€6,600) or both.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the acquittal of Lena Hendry, as it believes that the charges brought against the human rights defender were directly linked to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, in particular in exposing human rights violations in Sri Lanka, and urges the Malaysian government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia.

11 December 2015
Joint letter to the Malaysian authorities: drop charges against Lena Hendry

On 10 December 2015, international human rights organisations issued a joint letter, urging the Malaysian authorities to drop the charges against human rights defender Lena Hendry.

This is the full text of the joint letter, addressed to Prime Minister Najib and to the Attorney General:

"We write to you as organizations that are deeply concerned by the decision of the Malaysian authorities to prosecute Lena Hendry for her involvement in the screening of the award-winning human rights documentary, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” in Kuala Lumpur on July 9, 2013. The charges against her violate Malaysia’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, notably to receive and impart information. We respectfully urge your government to drop the charges against Hendry. Her trial in Magistrate Court 6 in Kuala Lumpur is slated to begin on December 14, 2015.

As you know, Hendry is being charged under section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, which imposes a mandatory prior censorship or licensing scheme on all films before they can be screened at any event, except films sponsored by the federal government or any state government. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison and a fine up to RM 30,000.

The prosecution appears intended to restrict the activities of Hendry and members of the KOMAS, the human rights education and promotion organization with which she works, by hindering their efforts to provide information and share their perspectives on human rights issues.

International human rights law and standards, such as found in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Malaysia has committed to ensuring that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals from the government. In November, Malaysia voted in favor of a resolution on “Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection” in the 3rd Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution set out the urgent need for governments to protect human rights defenders worldwide. Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” Article 12(2) provides that the government shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights.”

In addition to dropping the charges against Hendry, we also urge your government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia. This policy denies Malaysians the opportunity to benefit from a range of viewpoints on issues of importance to Malaysian society and that affect Malaysia’s role in the world.

12 March 2015
Suspension of trial against human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry

On 10 March 2015, the High Court of Malaysia ordered that trial against human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry be suspended pending a decision of the Federal Court as to whether the Film Censorship Act 2002, under which she has been charged, is constitutional.

Lena Hendry is a Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation which works to empower indigenous peoples, urban poor, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

In suspending the trial against the human rights defender, the High Court overturned a previous decision of the Magistrate's Court of Kuala Lumpur, which held that the case should continue despite the constitutional challenge. The High Court sent the human rights defender's constitutional claim to the Federal Court, and a date has not yet been set for the hearing.

Lena Hendry is challenging Section 6 of the FCA which prohibits individuals from exhibiting a film not approved by the Film Censorship Board, claiming that the provision violates Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on freedom of speech and expression. Under Section 6, individuals found guilty of airing unapproved films can be fined up to 30,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately €7660) and/or imprisoned for up to three years.

Lena Hendry is being charged under the statute for organising a film screening event showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013 without approval from the Film Censorship Board. The documentary exposes human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the decision to suspend the trial against Lena Hendry, and reiterates its call for the charges against the human rights defender to be dropped, as it believes they are solely the result of her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

30 November 2015
Upcoming trial of human rights defender Lena Hendry

On 14 December 2015, human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry is due to appear at Magistrate Court in Kuala Lumpur.

She is charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening a documentary exposing human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war.

Lena Hendry is a Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation which works to empower indigenous peoples, urban poor, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media.

Lena Hendry is charged under Section 6 (1) (b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, which is an investigatory documentary about the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. The film reports how thousands of Tamil people were killed by the Sri Lankan military. In the documentary, the Sri Lankan authorities deny the allegations. If Lena Hendry is found guilty, she could face a fine of between RM5,000 and RM30,000 (approximately €1,170 to €7,020) and/or a maximum of three years in prison.

Lena Hendry's defence team filed two applications to both the High Court and the Federal Court to strike out the case on the basis that it is unconstitutional and in violation of freedom of expression. However, both appeals were dismissed and the case was transferred back to Magistrate court for trial. Court hearings will take place on 14-15 December 2015 and on 6-8 January 2016.

Recently the Government of Malaysia voted in favour for the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. Front Line Defenders calls on the authorities of Malaysia to demonstrate its commitment to the protection of human rights defenders by halting the proceedings against Lena Hendry, as they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful human rights work, namely raising awareness of the atrocities committed during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

4 December 2013
Trial against human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry to go ahead despite High Court challenge

On 25 November 2013, the Magistrates' Court in Kuala Lumpur rejected Ms Lena Hendry's request to suspend the proceedings pending a High Court challenge against the charges. The Magistrates' Court scheduled a final procedural hearing for 17 March 2014, and set the trial dates for 31 March to 4 April 2014. Lena Hendry is bringing a High Court appeal challenging the charges under the Film Censorship Act 2002.

On 19 September 2013, she was charged under Section 6 (1) (b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for organising a film screening event showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013. The documentary exposes human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war.

Lena Hendry first appeared before the court on 21 October 2013, when documents including the charge sheet, the police report, the layout of the venue where the documentary was shown, and a copy of the film in DVD format were provided to the court.

31 October 2013
Human Rights Defender Lena Hendry Due To Appear in Court on 7 November 2013

On 7 November 2013, human rights defender Lena Hendry is due to appear at Majistret Court 6, Duta High Court Complex in Kuala Lumpur. She is charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening a documentary exposing human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war.

Lena Hendry is charged under Section 6 (1) (b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, which is an investigatory documentary reporting how thousands of Tamil people were killed by the Sri Lankan military. The Sri Lankan authorities deny these allegations.

If the human rights defender is found guilty, she could face a fine of between RM5,000 and RM30,000 (approximately €1,170 to €7,020) and/or a maximum of three years in prison.

Lena Hendry last appeared in court on 21 October 2013 when documents including the charge sheet, the police report, the layout of the venue where the documentary was shown, and a copy of the film in DVD format were provided to the court.

20 September 2013
Human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry charged under Film Censorship Act

On 19 September 2013, human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry presented herself at the Magistrate Court in Kuala Lumpur to hear a charge filed against her under the Film Censorship Act after she organised a film screening event showing human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

On 19 September, Lena Hendry was charged under Section 6 (1) (b) of the Film Censorship Act (2002) for showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 3 July 2013.

The human rights defender was released on bail for RM1,000 (approximately €235). If she is found guilty under the charge, she could face a fine of RM5,000 to RM30,000 (approximately €1,170 to €7,020) and/or a maximum jail term of three years. Judge Ashraf Rezal Abd Manam fixed 21 October 2013 as the next date that Lena Hendry has to present herself to the court.

Ms New Sin Yew, the lawyer of Lena Hendry, will file a motion to the High Court that the charge violates Sections 8 and 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution. The two sections guarantee the rights of expression and that all persons are entitled to equal protection under the law.

On 3 July 2013, Lena Hendry, along with Pusat KOMAS Executive Director Mr Arul Prakkash, and one of the Board of Directors Ms Anna Har, were arrested during the screening of the film, which was raided by around 30 officials from the Home Ministry, Police, and Immigration Department.

“No Fire Zone” is a documentary that highlights human rights violations in Sri Lanka committed by the government and the military against its citizens during the course of Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. They were questioned for more than three hours and released on police bail. Prior to the film screening, the Chinese Assembly Hall owners were contacted by Sri Lankan High Commission officials who urged them to stop the screening.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the Film Censorship Act is being used to prohibit human rights defenders from holding events related to human rights, and that the charge against Lena Hendry is directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular in exposing human rights violations in Sri Lanka.