Amnesty International, human rights advocates urge Perikatan administration to commit to establishing IPCMC

Amnesty International Malaysia researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said that passing the IPCMC Bill would not only show that the government is serious about police reform and the rule of law, but also that it is committed to respecting and securing the human rights of all Malaysians. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Amnesty International Malaysia researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said that passing the IPCMC Bill would not only show that the government is serious about police reform and the rule of law, but also that it is committed to respecting and securing the human rights of all Malaysians. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — The Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration must strongly commit to passing the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill as a means to further protect human rights, said Amnesty International.

In a panel discussion today, following the release of the Amnesty International Report A Historic Opportunity: Ensuring An Effective Police Commission In Malaysia, the organisation stressed that such reforms performed the role of addressing abuse and misconduct among the police, which it alleged have been a longstanding human rights issue in the country.

“Preventing police misconduct should be an urgent priority, especially when law enforcement is under such acute scrutiny worldwide.

“Government responses to Covid-19 — as well as greater scrutiny of police violence from Hong Kong to the United States — are a reminder to Malaysians that its government needs to implement checks against police misconduct. This is a historic opportunity to enact change,” said Amnesty International researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

Chhoa-Howard also said that passing the Bill would not only show that the government is serious about police reform and the rule of law, but also that it is committed to respecting and securing the human rights of all Malaysians.

“Malaysians were promised police accountability at the polls in 2018. This promise must be kept,” she added.

Other panellists included Rama Ramanathan, Eliminating Deaths and Abuse In Custody Together (EDICT), Ivy Josiah, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and the Bar Council’s IPCMC Task Force chairman Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam.

Among the points discussed today were the many cases of death in custody as well as allegations of police misconduct, with the most recent case involving V. Mugilarasu, a machine operator who died on July 2 while remanded at Sungai Buloh Prison.

Yesterday, Ramachelvam had also called for an independent body to investigate the death as well as an inquest to uncover all the facts surrounding it.

In the panel discussion today, Ramachelvam had stressed that the establishment of the IPCMC must include proper legal authority to penalise errant police officers.

“The crux of the whole issue is this: to have an effective organisation in terms of the Royal Malaysian police that has got to be independent, standalone and for the police.

“It is not targeting the police. But if you look at the trend worldwide, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, and even Kenya, the police disciplinary commission, investigative commission, complaints commission, misconduct commission are independent and standalone and deal only with the police.

“It is because of the unique situation because the police have the most powers among all the law enforcement in any country.

“The unique feature of the IPCMC is this: the IPCMC as proposed in the Bill provides for one very important thing, and that is disciplinary powers and provides for investigations,” he said.

While the police have established the Department of Integrity and Standards Compliance (JIPS), Ramachelvam pointed out that the department is not transparent and does not bring about the necessary changes.

The original Bill drafted in 2005 was derived in part from the participation of civil society groups and representatives from the Bar Council who had been in the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) convened then to study police powers.

The RCI had studied similar independent oversight mechanisms from multiple countries including Hong Kong, Canada and Wales.

It proposed granting the IPCMC enforcement powers, but the commission was never realised after the Royal Malaysia Police at the time fought its formation vehemently.

As a compromise, the government formed the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) instead which was vested with investigative powers as well as the authority to only “recommend” action against offenders.

The previous Pakatan Harapan government acknowledged the EAIC’s lack of direct authority, leading to the proposal to finally form the IPCMC.

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