Malaysia’s Decline in Human Rights: Increased Risk of Persecution in 2023

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In 2023, Malaysians experienced a decline in their freedom to be safe from their government, according to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative’s (HRMI) Index Right Tracker 2024. The report indicates an increased risk of persecution or worse by authorities, with several key human rights metrics showing a significant downturn.

Decline in Safety from the State

According to the HRMI Index Right Tracker 2024, Malaysia’s score for the right to freedom from extrajudicial execution fell to 6.8 out of 10 in 2023, compared to 7.5 in 2022. This decline follows a steady increase in previous years since 2019. The report suggests that many Malaysians are not safe from arbitrary arrest, torture, ill-treatment, forced disappearance, execution, or extrajudicial killing, as reflected in Malaysia’s safety from the state score of 5.8 out of 10.

Human Rights Categories and Scores

The HRMI tracker categorizes safety from the state into five key areas: arbitrary arrest, forced disappearance, death penalty, extrajudicial execution, and torture and ill-treatment. The scores for these categories reveal the troubling state of human rights in Malaysia:

  • Arbitrary Arrest: Malaysia’s score showed inconsistency, dipping from 6.1 in 2019 to 5.8 in 2020, rising again to 6.1 in 2021, then gradually declining to 6.0 in 2022, and slipping further to 5.2 in 2023.
  • Forced Disappearance: Malaysia scored 7 out of 10 for freedom from forced disappearance in 2023.
  • Death Penalty: The right to freedom from the death penalty remained unchanged at 10 out of 10 for the past five years.
  • Extrajudicial Execution: The score dropped significantly from 7.5 in 2022 to 6.8 in 2023.
  • Torture and Ill-Treatment: The score showed a slight improvement, rising from 5.5 in 2022 to 5.6 in 2023.

Regional and Global Comparisons

The HRMI report highlights that for civil and political rights, there is insufficient data across East Asia and Pacific countries for a comprehensive regional comparison. However, compared to other countries in the HRMI sample, Malaysia is performing close to average on the right to be safe from the state. The scores are categorized into four grades: very bad, bad, fair, and good, with Malaysia’s scores indicating a troubling trend towards increased human rights violations.

Implications and Future Outlook

The decline in Malaysia’s human rights scores underscores the urgent need for governmental reforms and increased oversight to protect citizens from state persecution. The deteriorating scores in arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial execution, and other categories highlight the vulnerabilities faced by Malaysians.


The Human Rights Measurement Initiative’s (HRMI) Index Right Tracker 2024 paints a concerning picture of Malaysia’s human rights landscape in 2023. With increased risks of arbitrary arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killings, there is a critical need for systemic changes to safeguard human rights and ensure the protection of all citizens. The findings call for immediate attention from both national and international human rights organizations to address these issues and promote a safer environment for Malaysians.

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