Set up task force on enforced disappearance, says Malaysian Bar

Norhayati Mohd Arifin — wife of Amri Che Mat — embraces their daughter Nur Masarrah during the announcement of Suhakam’s public inquiry findings into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Norhayati Mohd Arifin — wife of Amri Che Mat — embraces their daughter Nur Masarrah during the announcement of Suhakam’s public inquiry findings into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — A special task force should be set up to look into the disappearance of activist Amri Che Mat and pastor Raymond Koh in line with the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Malaysian Bar said.

Its president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said in a statement that the Bar was appalled that Suhakam came to the conclusion that both men were victims of “enforced disappearance” at the hands of Bukit Aman’s Special Branch.

“The Malaysian Bar wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of the Inquiry Panel, principally the establishment of a Special Task Force to reclassify, reopen and reinvestigate the disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh, and especially to look into police involvement in their disappearances,” he said.

He said that the findings were proof of the Special Branch’s privileged position that was protected from scrutiny and accountability, and also highlighted the various “fake alternative explanations” made to shift attention away from the Special Branch and to pin the responsibility for the disappearances on other groups or individuals.

“There were conclusions arrived at by the Inquiry Panel concerning dubious and contradictory testimony by various police personnel, including by former inspector-general of police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar; possible fabrication of evidence by the police; and even a concerted effort to derail the proceedings by charging an individual and claiming that, as a result, Suhakam no longer had any jurisdiction to proceed with the inquiry.

“More worrying still was the thread of actual testimony and circumstantial evidence that interwove this operation by the Special Branch with the abuse of power by certain individuals within the state Islamic religious authorities, to seek to highlight the threat of Shia Islam,” he said.

Abdul Fareed said that the Bar strongly urged the government to recognise the panel’s decision and immediately implement its various recommendations.

Among the recommendations made was to clearly demarcate the powers of the police and state Islamic religious authorities; reform the standard operating procedures of the police, to make the police more cooperative, open and transparent, less suppressive and avoid concealing of evidence; deal with cases of missing persons more quickly; and establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, as an independent oversight body to investigate complaints about the police force.

Abdul Fareed said that Malaysians deserve to know what happened to Amri and Koh, and others like pastor Joshua Helmi and his wife Ruth, as well as Saiful Bahari, a civilian contract worker for the police who has also vanished.

“They, and the Malaysian public, have the right — and deserve — to know the truth about what has happened to all of them.”

Yesterday, Suhakam revealed the findings of its inquiry into the abductions of Koh and activist Amri as “enforced disappearance” with the likely involvement of state agents such as the police’s Special Branch.

Koh was mysteriously abducted by 15 men in black SUVs in an apparent professionally planned and executed manner, while Perlis activist Amri went missing in November 2016.

Joshua and his wife also went missing in November 2016.