Rights group Amnesty International has urged Malaysian authorities to halt plans to cane at least 20 Rohingya refugees for alleged "immigration offences," calling the punishment "cruel and inhuman."
The group of Rohingya men were sentenced to the lashes and seven months in prison in June after fleeing to the country along with hundreds of others in April, Amnesty said in a statement on Monday.
The rights group said that a Malaysian court has the authority to strike out the caning sentence "in the coming days."
"The men who face violent lashings on top of jail terms have already fled persecution and crimes against humanity in Myanmar," Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Malaysia Researcher at Amnesty International, said in the statement.
"They also survived a dangerous journey at sea to Malaysia in search of safety. The inhumanity of this approach is atrocious."
Nine women were also convicted to seven months in prison and 14 children have been charged for staying in Malaysia without a valid work permit.
Amnesty has called on the government to release all other Rohingya refugees who had been convicted under the alleged immigration offences saying that they are contrary to international law.
According to the rights group, since that start of 2020, up to 1400 Rohingya people have been stranded in boats in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal after fleeing persecution in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Malaysian authorities had allowed 202 Rohingya people to disembark from a boat in April, but other boats have been sent back to Bangladesh.