Set up taskforce to probe enforced disappearances quickly

Aliran is alarmed at the finding by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Sukaham) that state agents, namely the Special Branch of the police, were responsible for the enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat. It is simply unconscionable.

We note Suhakam’s long and arduous effort in drawing us closer to the truth and we fully support their call for an independent taskforce to probe the case.

If indeed the Special Branch was responsible, the government will have to find suitable taskforce members capable of investigating the police.

The priority should be to find out what exactly happened to those who disappeared and who exactly was directly and indirectly responsible.

Taskforce investigators will need to be mindful of the concept of “plausible deniability”. Were the culprits acting as a rogue group or were they taking orders from up a chain of command?

Plausible deniability is described in Wikipedia as “the ability of people (typically senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least wilfully ignorant of the actions.

“In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise.”

So apart from identifying the culprits, investigators will therefore have to examine how high up the ladder culpability goes.

The recommended taskforce must now be quickly set up so that all of us, especially the families concerned, can make sense of what actually happened to those who disappeared and who was ultimately responsible. In addtion, steps must be taken to ensure that enforced disappearances must never be allowed to take place again.

With this in view, we reiterate the call for the immediate setting up of an independent police complaints and misconduct commission, as recommended by a royal commission of inquiry in 2005.

Aliran executive committee

3 April 2019

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