Comango raises ‘enforced disappearance’ of activists with UN

Executive director of EMPOWER, Angela M. Kuga Thas, speaks at the launch of the Comango UPR Stakeholder Report in Kuala Lumpur June 7, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Executive director of EMPOWER, Angela M. Kuga Thas, speaks at the launch of the Comango UPR Stakeholder Report in Kuala Lumpur June 7, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — A coalition of Malaysian NGOs highlighted the still unsolved high-profile kidnapping and disappearance of four activists in the last two years to the United Nations (UN) in its report launched today.

The report by Comango, which tracks progress in the field of human rights in Malaysia since the last UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), pointed out that Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy and wife Ruth Hilmy are still missing despite police investigations.

“Investigation by the state has been met with claims by witness that the official police report has missing elements from his official statement and that the police appeared more interested in the allegations made against those who disappeared as opposed to the perpetrators behind their kidnapping,” it said.

Comango also said that part of the investigation into the claims of “enforced disappearances” had been halted due to a criminal case against an alleged kidnapper, even when he was previously cleared by the police.

In March last year, Lam Chang Nam, a 31-year-old part-time Uber driver, was charged with demanding RM30,000 from Koh’s son, Jonathan.

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has since restarted its inquiry last month, after finding that Lam has no connection with the case.

Comango also said activists advocating on the issue and conducting candlelight vigils have been called for statements and investigated by the police.

It recommended that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be formed to probe the alleged inaction, inconsistencies and inability of the Royal Malaysia Police in closing the case.

NGO Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) last week urged new Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to intervene in the case, following new information supplied by Amri’s wife Norhayati last month.

In a sworn statement, Norhayati said a Perlis Special Branch police officer had revealed to her the alleged complicity of the police, former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin in the Amri’s abduction.

However, the officer has since lodged a police report denying the remarks attributed to him, prompting fears of pressure against a whistle-blower.

The Comango report was prepared following a series of consultation with Putrajaya between 2014 and 2017, following the last UPR on Malaysia in 2013 ― when the country accepted 150 recommendations from its peers.

Held every four and a half years, the UPR is a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mechanism that was established in 2007 to improve the treatment of human rights in all 193 UN member states.

The process involves a three-hour interactive dialogue, where UNHRC members will question Malaysia based on reports prepared by the government, UN agencies, and the stakeholders’ report ― which summarises the report of NGOs both national and international.

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