Go after perpetrators of custodial deaths instead, human rights group says after police take in filmmaker, artist for questioning

Filmmaker Anna Har (2nd right) and cartoonist Amin Landak (2nd left) with their lawyer Rajsurian Pillai (left) at Bukit Aman, July 2, 2021. — Picture from Twitter/freedomfilmfest
Filmmaker Anna Har (2nd right) and cartoonist Amin Landak (2nd left) with their lawyer Rajsurian Pillai (left) at Bukit Aman, July 2, 2021. — Picture from Twitter/freedomfilmfest

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — The Malaysian chapter of Amnesty International today urged the police to drop investigation against filmmaker Anna Har and cartoonist Amin Landak in connection with an ongoing probe of an animation highlighting alleged police brutality in the country.

Instead, the human rights group said focus should be on catching and trying rogue officers who commit crimes against people taken into custody.

“Instead of pursuing its critics, the police should instead focus on investigating and ending torture and deaths in custody, and hold those responsible to account in fair trials,” the group said in a statement.

Amnesty International Malaysia was responding to a police raid of the production house Freedom Film Network (FFN) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor co-founded by Har, and Amin’s Wangsa Maju home earlier today.

Both Har and Amin were later called in for questioning concerning an animated film titled Chilli Powder & Thinner, that is said to depict torture and deaths of police detainees based on a victim’s testimony.

Lawyer Rajsurian Pillai, who represented Har and Amin, confirmed the raid and the questioning.

However, he told Malay Mail when contacted that the police acted professionally in both situations, relating that the investigators waited for his clients to arrive at the respective premises before conducting an inspection.

Rajsurian said Har and Amin are both being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of network facilities or network service, and Sections 500 and 505(b) of the Penal Code for making statements conducing to public mischief.

But to Amnesty International Malaysia, these laws “restrict the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Federal Constitution”.

“We view the investigation into FFN, Har and Amin as attempts to silence criticism of the police and distract from public concern over the high numbers of allegations of abuse and deaths in police custody,” the group said.

It said there had been a string of custodial deaths in the past two months that should be the focus of police investigation, and listed the victims: Umar Faruq Abdullah on June 3, Surendran Shanker on May 27, S. Sivabalan on May 20, and A. Ganapathy on April 18.

“Deaths in custody have been a longstanding problem, with human rights organisation Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) documenting at least eight publicly recorded cases in 2020, and at least 104 people having died in custody from 2011 to 2018.

“Yet, 16 years after the recommendation by a Royal Commission of Inquiry to establish an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), the government and the police continue to resist its formation,” it added.

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