Article contributed by Malathi Mohan, Officer, Bar Council; and photos by Muhammad Bazli Naim b Abdul Azid, Administrative Assistant, Bar Council
On 4 May 2016, Bar Council Task Force on Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (“IPCMC”) organised a roundtable discussion entitled “Promoting Greater Police Accountability in Malaysia”. 107 participants attended the Roundtable including representatives from SUHAKAM, SUARAM, EAIC, LFL, representatives from Embassies, members from Judiciary and other members of civil society who are concerned about, and want to see improvements in, the conduct and performance of police personnel.
The objective of the roundtable discussion was to reiterate Malaysian Bar’s call on the Government to establish the IPCMC to serve as an independent, external agency tasked to receive and investigate complaints of police misconduct and abuse of power. The main issues that were discussed included death in police custody, police shooting, and police torture.
The roundtable discussion generated lively debate and highlighted the failure of the Polis Diraja Malaysia to investigate the resulting deaths, and the refusal of the authorities to hold inquests into them.
The forum was divided into three sessions. The slide presentation by Firdaus Husni, Deputy Chairperson of the Task Force, during the first session covered the statistics on death in police custody; case studies on death in police custody, police shooting and police torture; complaints mechanisms in different jurisdictions; and new domestic laws that give the police extremely wide powers of arrest and investigation.
During the second session, the following five speakers were invited to share their experiences and views, as follows:
(1) Datuk Yaacob b Haji Md Sam, Chairman, Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (“EAIC”);
(2) Sevan Doraisamy, Executive Director, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (“SUARAM”);
(3) S Arutchelvan, Secretary–General, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (“PSM”);
(4) Gwen Lee Chee Yeng, Campaigner, Amnesty International Malaysia (“AI Malaysia”); and
(5) James Nayagam, former Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (“SUHAKAM”).
The third session consisted of a discussion segment open to all participants.
The roundtable discussion concluded with the adoption of a resolution, as follows:
WE THE UNDERSIGNED, having participated, either in our personal capacity or as the representative(s) of the organisation to which we belong, in the Roundtable Discussion on Promoting Greater Police Accountability in Malaysia, organised by the Bar Council Task Force for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission on 4 May 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, take note that:
1. Even after 10 years since the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police (Royal Commission), chaired by former Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Mohamad Dzaiddin, in June 2005, deaths in police custody continue to occur in Malaysia at an alarming rate, averaging 19 per year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)1;2. Further, according to the statistics from the Royal Malaysian Police themselves, 394 persons were shot dead in engagements with them between the years 2000 and August 2012;3. Notwithstanding the establishment of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), which commenced operations on 1 April 2011, many incidents of deaths in police custody have gone uninvestigated and/or without an inquest being carried out, leaving the members of the family of the deceased and the general public with no information as to the cause of death;4. There have been two recent decisions by the Malaysian courts2 and two reports by the EAIC3 which have identified four instances where members of the Royal Malaysian Police were found to have been responsible for the unlawful deaths of individuals, either through a shooting by the police or whilst in police custody, as well as attempts to cover–up and conceal such occurrences; and5. Instances of deaths in police custody clearly point to breaches of customary international law, such as that set out in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (1984), and of internationally–accepted policing standards and norms, such as those encapsulated in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990).
Given the foregoing, WE THE UNDERSIGNED call upon the Malaysian Government to:
1. immediately establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), as recommended by the Royal Commission in its Report in 2005, with such body being tasked singularly with the responsibility of investigating all shooting deaths and deaths in police custody and other complaints and allegations of misconduct against members of the Royal Malaysian Police;2. devote adequate resources, both human and material, to make it possible for such an IPCMC to investigate all cases of shooting deaths and deaths in police custody which have occurred in Malaysia and for which no independent inquest or inquiry has been undertaken;3. afford better security to “whistleblowers” and those under protective custody;4. take immediate steps to accede to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and progressively amend all laws, procedures and practices in Malaysia that are necessary in order to conform with the provisions of this Convention, and specifically to introduce into the Penal Code the criminal offences of torture and any abetment by attempting to cover–up;5. further improve the coronial court system in Malaysia to ensure that prompt and comprehensive inquests are held in respect of all deaths in custody and shooting deaths, which can serve as a positive means of discouraging potential torture of suspects by the police and other law enforcement agencies; and6. work with all levels of government and sectors of society and adopt a multi–agency approach towards ending the problem of deaths in police custody by creating greater public awareness of the issue, and also by ensuring that adequate medical attention and supervision is afforded to persons in police custody, and to provide for an independent forensic pathology service to ensure that all deaths in custody are thoroughly investigated.7. take measures to ensure that the PDRM exercise the powers given to them under the law in line with internationally accepted standards and best practices in policing.
Dated this 4th day of May, 2016.
List of organisations and individuals (on personal capacity) endorsing the resolution
1. Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim
2. Dr Manique Cooray
3. Dr Nurjaanah Chew Li Hua
4. Harleen Kaur, Advocate and Solicitor
5. Ivy Josiah
6. James Nayagam
7. Jason Kay, former Co–Chairperson of HRC 2016/17
8. Melissa Sasidaran, Legal/Campaign Coordinator for Lawyers for Liberty (“LFL”)
9. Professor Asmida Ahmad
10. Professor Vasantha Punniamoorthy
11. Roger Chan Wee Keng, Advocate and Solicitor
12. S A Fernandez
13. Sarajun Hoda
14. Siti Kasim, Advocate and Solicitor
15. Tarmizi Anuwar
16. YB M Kulasegaran
17. Victor Paul Dorai Raj, Advocate and Solicitor
18. Yvette Mah Looi Yin, Advocate and Solicitor
19. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (“SUARAM”)
20. Amnesty International Malaysia (“AI Malaysia”)
21. Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (“ASLI”)
22. Bar Council Human Rights Committee
23. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (“C4”)
24. Centre for Public Policy Studies (“CPPS”)
25. Democratic Action Party (“DAP”)
26. Islamic Renaissance Front
27. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (“PSM”)
28. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (“OHMSI”)
1 http://www.suhakam.org.my/death–in–police–custody, accessed on 4 May 2016.
2 http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1135578, accessed on 4 May 2016, and http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/03/24/aminulrasyid–family–damages–courts/, accessed on 4 May 2016.
3 http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/eaic–says–johor–mans–2014–death–in–custody–was–murder, accessed on 4 May 2016, and http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/eaic–police–officers–beat–dharmendran–to–death–during–violent–interrogation, accessed on 4 May 2016.