At AGM, lawyers to push for charging dishonest cops who cover up custodial deaths

Also calling for an IPCMC to be set up is Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, who in his proposed motion noted that questionable deaths in police custody, unlawful fatal police shooting and police brutality on detainees continue to occur. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Also calling for an IPCMC to be set up is Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, who in his proposed motion noted that questionable deaths in police custody, unlawful fatal police shooting and police brutality on detainees continue to occur. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Police officers who dishonestly seek to hide their colleagues' torture and murder of detainees should be prosecuted instead of being protected or disciplined internally, lawyers have proposed.

In a proposed motion for the Malaysian Bar's 71st annual general meeting (AGM) to be held  tomorrow, the lawyers said prosecuting these alleged "bad" officers was necessary to both protect the police's integrity and to serve as deterrent to other police officers, enforcement officers and prosecutors.

They noted that those involved in the country's administration of justice — such as the police, enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges — are expected to have "honesty and integrity".

"As such, when the police has been found to be wrongly and dishonestly tampering with evidence and records, and/or involved in actions of ‘cover-ups’, these actions cannot be tolerated.

"The failure of police officers to report wrongdoings and/or crimes of their fellow police officers also cannot be tolerated," the March 10 motion proposed jointly by Malaysian Bar members Charles Hector Fernandez, Francis Pereira, Shanmugam Ramasamy.

"There is a need to weed out such ‘bad’ and/or dishonest police officers, and it is also important that such police officers not be ‘protected’, but be charged and tried in a court of law," they added.

The trio in their proposed motion cited findings by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), including the EAIC's findings of alleged attempts by police personnel to cover-up and destroy evidence in the alleged November 27, 2014 custodial death case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed and the lack of information on whether these officers were charged as recommended by the EAIC.

They also cited the EAIC's findings that police officers charged with murder in the May 2013 custodial death case of Dharmendran Narayanasamy had allegedly included false information in and tampered with police records, adding that there appears to be no information of them being charged for the alleged crimes of fabricating false evidence and giving false information.

"It is possible that some ‘internal’ disciplinary action may have been taken against these police officers. There is also the possibility that no action was taken. In any event, this information seem to have not been reported in the media," they said.

The lawyers proposed that the Malaysian Bar pass a resolution calling for, among other things, the eradication of torture and death in custody in Malaysia and that the Bar Council continue its good work in attaining such a goal.

They also proposed for the Bar to resolve to call for the removal of all police officers "who have committed a crime, be it torture, murder, tampering with evidence or records, and/or covering up of crimes of fellow officer" in order to protect the Malaysian police's integrity and administration of justice.

"That all police officers who have committed a crime related to the carrying out their duties should be promptly investigated, charged and tried in open court, rather than subjected to ‘secretive’ internal disciplinary actions," their proposed resolution also read.

The trio also proposed that the resolution urge Malaysia to immediately set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), besides tasking the Bar Council with ensuring that Standard Operating Procedures on police action be made public to allow Malaysians to know their rights.

Also calling for an IPCMC to be set up is Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, who in his proposed motion noted that questionable deaths in police custody, unlawful fatal police shooting and police brutality on detainees continue to occur.

This is despite the six previous resolutions that the Malaysian Bar had passed since 1999 on such matters, he said.

He added that the number of reported police custodial deaths by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia for 2000 to 2014 is 242, noting that Suara Rakyat Malaysia's records show 11 and two such deaths in 2015 and 2016, and that at least three such deaths have been reported this year.

Among other things, Steven proposed the Malaysian Bar resolve to condemn the continued occurrence of police brutality and deaths in police custody and express deep disturbance at the alleged failure to prosecute the police officers involved.

"The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Royal Malaysia Police to abide by the principles of justice, good governance and the rule of law, and to respect, promote and protect the human rights of people in Malaysia," the proposed resolution read.

There are a total of six motions proposed for members of the Malaysian Bar — which represents all lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia — to debate on this Saturday.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had in a March 7 written parliamentary reply said that 1,654 detainees in Malaysian prisons had died during the 2010 to February 2017 period when they received further treatment at hospital owing to various illnesses.

"The ministry views cases of deaths in the custody of police or other enforcement officers seriously and will not compromise and protect any police officers or enforcement officers suspected of using violence to the point of causing injury or deaths in custody," he said in his reply, also stating that there will be detailed investigations on all complaints of injuries or deaths in custody and appropriate action either in the form of disciplinary action or recommendations to prosecutors for charges to be pressed.

Zahid had in his reply said there was no need for an IPCMC in light of the formation of EAIC and Parliament's approval of the federal law related to the EAIC.