Iban victory over wrongful arrests

Forty-two Iban tribespeople, who were arrested in 1997 for defending their forest homeland against attempts to clear it for oil palm plantations, have won their case for wrongful arrest.

They had been arrested for allegedly obstructing surveyors carrying out preparatory works.

The Ibans were body searched and three were bruised and cut after being assaulted by the police.

For the first night in custody they were given no food or drink. Nine of the Iban were women, some of whom were forced to leave very young children in their longhouses while they were detained.

One woman said at the time, ‘We know our children are crying for our breast milk, our mother’s care, every day and night, not knowing where their parents are or what is happening to us here.’

At the time of the arrests, Survival protested to the Malaysian government to release the Iban and ensure that their rights to their land are recognised.

After their release the Iban filed a summons against the police and Malaysian government for wrongful arrest.

Speaking after the victory their lawyer, Harrison Ngau said, ‘This victory brightens up our spirit in our struggle for the recognition of native land rights.’