AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA
10 FEBRUARY 2021
DEATHS AND RAPE IN POLICE CUSTODY REINFORCE THE NEED FOR INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION
Amnesty International Malaysia is alarmed at recent incidents that highlight the impunity with which the police operate in Malaysia. Most recently, 31-year old detainee Mohd Afis Ahmad was reported to have died on January 28 while under police custody. This follows the 21 January revelation by the National Human Rights Commission Suhakam that police officers had encouraged other detainees to assault G. Jestus Kevin causing his death in April last year, and a separate news that a 16-year-old girl in a police station was raped by another detainee on 9 January.
According to human rights NGO Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody Togther (EDICT), Mohd Afis died from blunt force trauma to the head while under the custody of police in Kedah. Before this, in January, Suhakam revealed that footage from CCTV and testimony from other detainees at the Bentong, Pahang police headquarters indicate that Jestus Kevin was tied up using a blanket and beaten by another detainee who wasallegedly ordered by a police officer to “control” the deceased. Disturbingly, the officer watched while Jestus Kevin was being beaten so badly that he would later die from swelling of the brain due to blunt force trauma.
“These revelations are shocking for their brutality, but not surprising,” said Katrina Maliamauv, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia. “With no accountability and independent oversight of our police, deaths like these will continue to happen.”
The incident in Miri, Sarawak, where a minor was raped by a male detainee while she was being held at a police station, appears to be the result of police negligence. According to the victim, while she was held in a different cell from adult male detainees, their cell was not locked, enabling the perpetrator to approach her and assault her in the toilet. This week, two police officers were charged for negligence while a 19-year-old male is under trial for the rape. The police’s failure to ensure her safety is a violation of the Child Act, which states that minors must be separated from adults in places of detention.
It is time for the government to establish an independent oversight commission that has the power to investigate such failures, refer cases for prosecution and propose policy reforms to prevent abuses like these from reoccurring.
“Investigations into the deaths of Mohd Afis and Jestus Kevin must be carried out transparently and those responsible for allowing them to occur must be swiftly brought to justice in a court of law,” said Katrina. “Any effort to resolve the cases through lesser disciplinary measures will be a betrayal of both victims who have lost their lives.”
Amnesty International Malaysia reiterates its call for the government to immediately work towards establishing an effective, independent police oversight commission. The Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) bill tabled in August 2020, with insufficient powers and independence, falls far short of this objective. Instead, it is a watered-down version of the already flawed IPCMC bill tabled in 2019.
“Abuses such as these, which routinely go unresolved, reflect the impunity in which the police force operate in Malaysia,” said Katrina. “The government must immediately drop the IPCC bill and instead work towards establishing a police oversight commission that has full investigative powers and operational independence from the executive before more lives are lost.”
The Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) was first proposed by the 2004 Royal Commission of Inquiry to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police.
In July 2019 a draft bill was tabled in Parliament. Civil society organisations, including Amnesty International, criticised the bill for granting insufficient powers and independence to ensure its effectiveness. The bill was then tabled with 24 amendments for the second reading in October 2019 before being referred for further review to the parliamentary special select committee, which reportedly made 12 additional amendments.
Unfortunately, the Pakatan Harapan administration postponed the planned December tabling of this amended bill and the coalition collapsed at the end of February 2020.
The current administration formally withdrew the IPCMC bill in Parliament in August 2020, replacing it with the IPCC bill.
Other human rights organisations, including the government-founded National Commission of Human Rights (SUAHAKAM), SUARAM, and Human Rights Watch, have also expressed disappointment at the contents of the IPCC Bill, expressing alarm that the proposed IPCC could be even more ineffective than the current Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).