Extrajudicial killings: Is the coroner already inquiring into this death?

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Extrajudicial killings, among others, are cases of police shooting dead suspects rather than arresting them.

A person can only be put to death after a fair trial and if the court sentences him or her to death.

The law is clear the duty of the police is only to arrest, and reasonable force is permitted to effect arrests.

Section 15(2)(c) of the Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) states:

If such person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him or attempts to evade the arrest such officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.

The police have no right to kill, and this is clear in Section 15(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code:

(3) Nothing in this section gives a right to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for a term of not less than thirty years but not exceeding forty years or with imprisonment for life.

Killing only may be excused for if the victim is an accused (meaning he or she has already been charged in court) where the offence he or she was charged with carries the death penalty of imprisonment of not less than 30 years.

Such persons, in all likelihood, may not be even be walking free but may be in detention because bail was denied. Hence, killing by police is a crime, nay a serious crime. Clearly criminalise extrajudicial killings.

Another shot dead

On 16 February, a 57-year-old man was shot dead by police. Allegedly, the deceased opened fire at the police, and the police responded by shooting and killing him. If he was arrested or shot and arrested alive, then as usual, after the death of the victim, the police comes out with allegations that the person that died was a ‘bad’ person.

According to Fisol [Kedah police chief Datuk Fisol Salleh], preliminary investigations revealed that the suspect, who is a local, has four criminal records in drugs and fake firearms. Fisol said the case is being investigated under Section 307 of the Penal Code and Section 8 of the Firearms Act 1960.

Section 507 Penal Code states:

Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication, or by having taken precautions to conceal the name or abode of the person from whom the threat comes, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, in addition to the punishment provided for the offence by Section 506.

READ MORE:  Five shot dead by police: Hold coroner's inquiry immediately to establish truth

The sentence for Section 506 is “punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or with fine or with both”.

There is no Firearms Act 1960, so the police chief may have been talking about the Arms Act 1960, where Section 8 provides for the offence of possessing or carrying arms and ammunition without an arms licence or arms permit, whereby the sentence is “imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to a fine not exceeding ten thousand ringgit, or to both”.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) believes the police should be investigating the police officers responsible for the killing, and those who were present for the crime of murder (Section 302 Penal Code). There is no justification to be investigating a man, already dead, who can never again be charged and convicted in court after a fair trial.

Is there ‘police encounter’ in Malaysia just like in Tamil movies?

In Tamil movies, we often hear of a “police encounter” – going after a person with the intention to kill, rather than arrest. Hopefully, this does not happen in Malaysia.

Were the said police officers, reportedly a team from the D9 division of the Kedah Criminal Investigation Department (CID) – not a usual police team – really on a random patrol? Did the killing happen as the police said?

Well, for this, other than the police investigation, there must immediately be an inquest by the coroner.

Recalling the coroner’s decision that police abused power and killed:

We recall that on 31 May 2022, the coroner’s court, presided by Coroner Rasyihah Ghazali, for “police shooting that resulted in death of 3” concluded that there was abuse of power and elements of a criminal nature in the death of three men who were shot at close range by police three years ago. “The shots were not fired in self-defence. There was abuse of power and (actions in the nature of) criminal elements by police in the death of the men”…. She said police witnesses gave evidence that shots were fired at the men from an upright position but post-mortem reports stated that the bullets pierced their bodies at a downward angle. … “The weapons described by the ballistic expert (Izzuwan Marzuki) and the investigating officer (P Visvanathan) were also in conflict”…

READ MORE:  Bodycams and CCTV will deter extrajudicial killings

Speedy mandatory inquest

Now, in Malaysia, in cases of death by police shooting, there must be a speedy inquest (inquiry into the death) by the coroner of this latest police shooting case. Speed is essential to ensure no tampering or loss of evidence. Delay causes the risk of loss of relevant evidence.

Now, with regards to deaths involving the police, Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code, inquiry into cause of death of a person in custody of police or in any asylum states:

When any person dies while in the custody of the police or in a psychiatric hospital or prison, the officer who had the custody of that person or was in charge of that psychiatric hospital or prison, as the case may be, shall immediately give intimation of such death to the nearest Magistrate, and the Magistrate or some other Magistrate shall, in the case of a death in the custody of the police, and in other cases may, if he thinks expedient, hold an inquiry into the cause of death.

Madpet calls for an amendment of Section 334 to include deaths by police shootings, and to make it mandatory to hold a public inquest. Hence, the words “if he thinks expedient” that makes the holding of an inquest discretionary [should be removed].

Time for full-time coroners

A coroner in Malaysia is required to look into all deaths, and as such it is time to have full-time coroners, not simply magistrates or Session Court judges, as it is now, who have already so much other work in court. Inquests should be speedily completed, not after many years since the death.

The independence of the coroners also must be guaranteed. Likewise, the needed training ought to be given for them to deal with cases of police shootings and even deaths in police custody.

End defamation of victims

Now, in this recent death by police shootings, the police chief talks about the deceased having four criminal records. What does this mean? Was the deceased previously charged and convicted in court for four criminal offences? If he was not, then it is not criminal records simply if his name came up in investigations or police reports. Was he even arrested and investigated for the alleged four crimes?

READ MORE:  Bodycams and CCTV will deter extrajudicial killings

The dead cannot defend themselves – and the making of ‘defamatory’ allegations may or will affect the living, their spouse, children and family members. Note that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court after a fair trial.

Suspend police officers until probe ends

Madpet reiterates that the priority of the police investigation after anyone dies after being shot by police is whether the involved police officers broke the law. Such police officers ought to immediately be suspended pending investigation or inquests into the death.

Too many extrajudicial killing

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in a parliamentary reply in 2012, said that a total of 298 people of various nationalities were shot dead between 2007 and August 2012. A total of 279 suspects have been shot dead by the police between 2000 and 2009, as revealed by the minister in Parliament in 2010. Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also revealed that the police shot dead 82 suspects in 2008, and 88 in 2009.

How many extrajudicial killings since then?

How many people were killed following police shootings – what gets reported in media may be just a few examples. The home minister must inform Parliament without being asked.

Madpet notes Malaysia has taken the position towards the abolition of the death penalty, and hence a moratorium on executions pending abolition. Malaysia has abolished the mandatory death penalty. These are all about death sentences imposed by courts after a fair trial.

Extrajudicial killings are worse, as it refers to the killing of a person by the state or its agents, without any judicial or legal proceedings, and such killings must end.

Madpet calls on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the government of Malaysia to put an end to extrajudicial killings in Malaysia.

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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