Prosecute all enforcement officers who break any law in deaths-in-custody cases

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Malaysians still remember Beng Hock and Sarbani

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is concerned that the attorney general found that there is insufficient evidence “to warrant a culpable homicide investigation into Teoh Beng Hock’s death” (The Star, 17 July 2019). What needs to be done is to continue investigations.

The Teoh Beng Hock case also raises many other possible offences that could be prosecuted – including the giving of false statements, possibly suppression or doctoring of evidence, and other breaches of the law. Any enforcement officer who breaks the law should be investigated and prosecuted in open court.

On 16 July 2009, Teoh was found dead on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, after going to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office on the 14th floor of the same building where he was interrogated.

Teoh had been brought into the Selangor MACC office for questioning at 6pm on 15 July 2009, where he remained for 19 hours until his body was found at 1.30pm the next day.

Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand testified that she was 80% sure Teoh had been strangled before falling off the building. This was based on bruises on his neck.

The royal commission of inquiry also concluded that five MACC officers had given false testimonies about their actions before Teoh was found dead. They were then Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim and officers Mohd Ashraf Mohd Yunus, Bulkini Paharuddin, Anuar and Raymond.

Both the inquiry report and Court of Appeal judgments clearly stated that MACC officers had committed wrongdoings when questioning Teoh; yet none has faced prosecution (Malaysiakini, 16 July 2019).

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There are also many other deaths in custody cases like the case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur where it was found that police officers or enforcement officers had broken the law.

In the Syed Mohd Azlan’s case, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) was reported as saying: “There was an element of crime in the attacks involving common intent or abetment by PDRM officers, including the arresting team, to intentionally use physical violence on the deceased to cause death or injury.”

It said that the action was a criminal offence, specifically under Section 302 and 325 of the Penal Code read with Section 34 of the same Act (Malay Mail, 30 October 2015). The EAIC investigations also found attempts to obscure evidence by police officers.

Sadly, we have not heard that all these officers were charged and tried in court.

Now, we have a new government and a new attorney general, and Madpet prays that all these officers who committed crimes – including ‘doctoring’, fabricating and hiding evidence – should be investigated and prosecuted. Those who make false statements should also be prosecuted.

The perception of the administration of justice in Malaysia suffers when police, MACC or other enforcement officers seem to be able to escape prosecution and trial. Internal disciplinary measures, including termination, alone are totally inadequate.

Public officers with the responsibility of enforcing the law must never break the law. If they do, they must be immediately prosecuted and tried in court, and if found guilty, their sentence best be a deterrent sentence.

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Such open trials may result in ensuring that other enforcement officers will in future obey the law for fear of being prosecuted if they break it in any way, whether through corruption, torture or any other crimes.

Therefore, Madpet calls on

  • the attorney general to immediately investigate, charge and try in open court all enforcement officers that have broken any law whatsoever – not just those that caused the death of Teoh Beng Hock, Syed Mohd Azlan and others who have died in custody and other victims
  • the attorney general to look at all Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), EAIC and other commissions’ reports – and immediately take action against the police, MACC or other enforcement officers that have been found to have committed crimes
  • the Malaysian government to adopt a strict policy of prosecuting any breach of law committed by public servants, and not simply resort to internal disciplinary measures including termination
  • the media to actively report and highlight all cases involving wrongdoings of public servants, especially enforcement officers, as this will help reduce corruption and criminal activities in the police, MACC, Immigration Department and the civil service generally
  • the Malaysian government to enact laws that makes it a crime for public servants who know of the criminal wrongdoings of their fellow public servants but who fail to come forward or indulge in covering up evidence of these wrongdoings
  • the Malaysian government to restore public confidence in the police, the MACC, enforcement officers, civil servants especially those in the administration of justice in Malaysia
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Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.

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