Suhakam to hold public inquiry into disappearance of Christian couple

Suhakam believe that the police were behind the abductions of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife Ruth Hilmy. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Suhakam believe that the police were behind the abductions of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife Ruth Hilmy. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today it will hold a public inquiry into the 2016 disappearance of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife Ruth Hilmy to assist the authorities with their ongoing investigation.

The planned inquiry comes as rights groups and families of victims of enforced disappearance accuse Putrajaya of stonewalling efforts to uncover the truth. They believe the police were behind the abductions.

Suhakam held a similar inquiry last year to probe the high profile disappearances of two other persons, pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Chet Mat, and released a damning report in April that found both men to be victims of enforced disappearances.

The commission said there are reasons to believe Hilmy and his wife had also been abducted.

“Through this inquiry, Suhakam intends to fully investigate to its best ability what has transpired in order to identify and make the best possible recommendations to the appropriate parties,” the commission said in a statement.

Hilmy and Ruth were last seen on November 30, 2016. Ruth — a Christian-born native of Sumatera — had lived in Malaysia since 2000, where she worked as a seamstress and met Joshua. The couple married four years later.

Joshua reportedly told Ruth’s family during a traditional wedding ceremony in North Sumatera in 2006 that he used to be Muslim, but had converted to Christianity.

On March 6, 2017, Joshua and Ruth’s landlord filed a missing persons report. The case remains unsolved but activists have noted similarities in their disappearance with other cases — most victims are Christians and are known to be active in their communities.

Suhakam in its report of the Koh and Amri inquiry said the duo had been abducted by men in masks in what appeared to be a military-like operation, and had reasons to believe the Special Branch of the police were involved.

The commission said it is likely that Joshua and Ruth had disappeared in the same manner.

Police have denied the allegation.

“Notwithstanding Suhakam’s investigation, the Commission calls on the authorities to fully and expeditiously investigate all cases where there is a reasonable suspicion that an enforced disappearance may have occurred,” it said.

The inquiry into the disappearance of Joshua and Ruth will commence on February 18. The commission has urged Individuals or parties with important information are encouraged to come forward and have their statements recorded from now to February 14.

The panel of inquiry will be chaired by Commissioner Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus and assisted by Commissioners Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma. 

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