KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) today urged Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas to explain why he decided to dismiss the case of the alleged sexual abuse of a minor at a tahfiz school in Ipoh.
WAO said the dismissal has raised serious questions about the integrity of the justice system and its ability to protect the survivors of child sexual abuse.
“We are extremely concerned and disappointed by the AG’s decision.
“It takes immense courage for children and their families to report sexual abuse as they often endure a protracted court trial.
“To have their case dismissed without explanation is a grave injustice and a violation of child rights,” WAO said in a statement.
The non-governmental organisation added that this dismissal erodes public confidence in the justice system and will likely deter other survivors from coming forward to seek justice.
“The manner in which the family learnt about the dismissal—through a letter to the court from the Perak State Legal Adviser’s Office — also shows lack of sensitivity to the child’s right to be meaningfully informed on court decisions.
“This right is outlined in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Malaysia ratified in 1995.
“Malaysia’s Criminal Procedure Code also upholds a complainant’s right to be consistently informed about their court case,” it said.
WAO asserted that in line with these laws, the prosecutor must meaningfully inform child survivors about the status of their court case and explain why certain decisions are made.
“This explanation must consider the child’s perspective and match the child’s evolving capabilities.
“In the case involving the tahfiz school student, the prosecutor failed to explain to the child why his case was dismissed,” said the organisation.
It also cited that in some countries, the prosecutor sits down with the child and family to explain decisions related to the case in a way the child can understand.
“This practice should also be adopted by the Attorney General’s Chambers in Malaysia.
“Moving forward, the attorney general must ensure that in handling child sexual abuse cases, the rights of the child are paramount,” said WAO.
On October 14, the Ipoh Magistrate’s Court dismissed the case of alleged sexual abuse against a minor at a tahfiz school in Manjoi a mere two months after recognising that an offence did take place.
Magistrate Mohammad Afifi Mohammad Deen made the decision after the court was provided with a letter from the Perak State Legal Adviser’s Office detailing a directive by the AG written under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution.
It is reported that this provision empowers the AG with the discretion to discontinue any proceeding for an offence.
The family’s lawyer, Asiah Abd Jalil, said she had exhausted all avenues to get answers as to why the case was marked as ‘No Further Action’.
Since the decision of the was made, the mother of the boy — who was allegedly consistently abused, together with other students, by their seniors over a period of five months at Maahad Tahfiz al Barakah previously owned by popular preacher Datuk Kazim Elias — has since indicated they may file a civil suit.
On August 7, the court acknowledged that an offence did take place in the case following the complaint made by the victim’s mother on the same day, under the Section 377E and Section 14(a) of the more recent Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 — that handles physical sexual assault on a child.
The court then instructed the deputy public prosecutor to attend proceedings to explain why the investigation paper was closed previously with no suspects identified, despite the victim being able to recognise the suspects.
The alleged offence took place three years ago in a tahfiz school teaching Quran memorisation, then owned by Kazim.
In August 2016, the mother lodged two police reports alleging that her son, then nine years old, was regularly sexually abused together with other students by their seniors in the tahfiz school.
In December that year, the police informed the mother that no further action would be taken the case.
Despite providing additional documents and evidence to support her claim, the victim’s mother was again told in May 2018 that no further action would be taken, citing a lack of witnesses and concrete evidence to support the allegation.
Meanwhile, the victim, who is now 13, still undergoes psychiatric therapy to overcome his trauma at the Hospital Bahagia in Tanjung Rambutan.
His mother added that the boy’s therapy is only scheduled to conclude in 2021.
Kazim no longer owns the tahfiz school, claiming that a falling number of speaking appointments had made it difficult for him to manage the centre.