In latest acquittal of four cops, a lawyers’ group reiterates calls for an independent police commission

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen speaks at Wisma HELP, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. December 11, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen speaks at Wisma HELP, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. December 11, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — In the wake of today’s acquittal of four police officers charged with the death in custody of N. Dharmendran, lawyers’ group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) reiterated a call for the setting-up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

Calling N. Dharmendran’s murder case an affirmation of the “killing fields” lock up, LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said the acquittals were “symptomatic of the larger problem of law enforcement impunity” and the state’s reluctance to “hold law enforcement personnel accountable for unlawful killings.”

He said even in custodial deaths, there were “no perpetrators, no repercussion and no redress”.

“We reiterate our calls for the government to implement the recommendation of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police (May 2005), for the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to function as an independent and external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel,” he said in a statement.

He pointed out that very few police personnel are ever charged for deaths in custody or fatal shootings despite the frequency of such cases.

“We have seen the acquittal of Aminulrasyid’s shooter and the failure to prosecute many custodial deaths including Teoh Beng Hock, C. Sugumar, Karuna Nithi and A. Kugan,” he said.

Paulsen claimed that “the prosecution was done haphazardly” based on the judge’s reason to acquit the four officers, to which, he said led “to collusion or cover up”.

The judge had ruled that the prosecution failed to provide a motive for the four, and only provided circumstantial evidence to back its case.

He also said that Dharmendran’s forensic report was inconsistent with the prosecution’s arguments.

Paulsen pointed out that the Court of Appeal on August 8 had ruled in A. Kugan’s family civil suit against the police that “custodial death cannot and should not happen in this country. There should be zero tolerance to any custodial death in all the remand centres in the country”.

Earlier today, the KL High Court acquitted Inspector S. Hare Krishnan and three other police officers for the death of Dharmendran in custody.

Hare, 40, was jointly charged for murder with Sgt Jaffri Jaafar, 44; Cpl Mohd Nahar Abd Rahman, 45; and Cpl Haswadi Zamri Shaari, 32.

They allegedly committed the offence at the Serious Crimes Division (D9) interrogation room on Level 7 of the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters on Jalan Hang Tuah on May 21 last year.  

Dharmendran, 31, was detained on May 21 for the attempted murder of two people in Cheras.

He complained of chest pains while he was locked up and collapsed at around 4.25pm on May 21. He was however pronounced dead on arrival after being immediately sent to the Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Siew Sheue Feng from Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s Department of Forensic Medicine stated that Dharmendran’s post-mortem revealed that he had died from various injuries caused by blunt objects.

However, Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ku Chin Wah claimed Dharmendran died due to “breathing difficulties”.

Dharmendran’s death was one of the three deaths in custody in less than two weeks in May last year, prompting calls for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

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