Press Statement by the Chairperson of Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy A. Samad Said on 24 March 2018
As the 14th general election is around the corner, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy gently reminds all political parties do not forget the political murder of Teoh Beng Hock in 2009, as well as draconian laws and regulations that led to his demise.
We applaud Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto that commits to set up IPCMC and to investigate all death in custody cases. We also welcome the Left Coalition’s manifesto that promises to ratify United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
However, we contend that there must be more concerted efforts to stop torture at custodies of enforcement agencies. Thus, we call upon all parties to endorse our 6 demands that outline the needy policy reforms to prevent reoccurrence of Teoh’s tragedy and of any human rights violation.
The 6 demands are as follows :
1) Amend the section 30(3)(a) of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.
2) Enact Anti-Torture Act to curb violence by all enforcement agency officers including MACC, Police, immigration and prison officers.
3) Ratification of United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)
4) Compulsory Human Rights Education for all civil servants
5) Civil society leader as the Chief Commissioner of MACC
6) Bring perpetrators to justice and reparation for all victim family of custodial death, including Teoh family
Teoh Beng Hock, the young political aide of Selangor state Exco, was tortured to death at the headquarter of MACC Selangor in 2009. Prominent Thai Pathologist Dr. Pornthip had proven that there was pre-fall bruises on his neck, the court of appeal had ruled in 2014 that the death was due to “an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown, inclusive of MACC officers who were involved in the arrest and investigation of the deceased”.
After 9 years, the BN government not only denied justice for Teoh family, but took superficial measures as a response to the tragedy, such as installation of CCTV at interrogation room and relocation of interrogation room to ground. The death of custom officer Ahmad Sarbani at MACC Kuala Lumpur one year after the incident shows the measures are totally ineffective.
Amend section 30(3)(a) of MACC Act
The first step of substantial reform is through amendment of section 30(3)(a) of MACC Act. This section, as it stands now, empowered MACC to examine someone “from day to day”. In Teoh’s case, MACC officers had obviously abused this section by detaining and interrogating him from 6pm to 5am, this is an apparent a mental torture and in violation of human rights.
The MACC Act 30(3)(a) stipulates:
“A person to whom an order has been given under paragraph (1)(a) shall –
attend in accordance with the terms of the order to be examined, and shall continue to attend from day to day where so directed until the examination is completed;”
Tan Boon Wah, the then local councillor for Kajang who was detained by MACC Selangor at the same time as Teoh, had filed a judicial challenge as he too was detained and interrogated overnight by the MACC after the death of Teoh. Nevertheless, the court of appeal ruled that interrogation time cannot be restricted to office hours as promptness in investigation of serious offence is of utmost importance.
We opine that this judgment has failed to give considerations and have disregarded a detainee’s rights to rest. We also see no reason why there is a double standard when POLICE interrogation can be conducted from 8:30am to 5:30pm (a normal working hours) whereas MACC were given such unrestricted time frame for investigation. Does that mean that offences under MACC are more culpable than those under Penal Code?
Government has the duty to ensure that MACC Act is human rights-compliance. There must be a political will from all political parties to amend section 30(3)(a) by simply amending the words “from day to day” to “from day to day and restrict to 10:00am-4:00pm”.
Enact Anti-Torture Act
Secondly, government has to put an end to state-sponsored torture by legislating an Anti-Torture Act. There are more victims like Teoh who were tortured during MACC investigations. During Teoh’s inquest, a former MACC detainee T. Sivanesan testified that he was “slapped, kicked, punched, beaten with a metal bar and hit on his genitals with a cane by MACC officers” during his detention in 2008.
Member of Parliament for Puchong Gobind Singh, who is also Teoh family’s lawyer, revealed in Parliament in 2011 that there were 59 police reports alleging use of force by MACC officers between 2005 and 2010. The statistics showed that there were an average of 10 complaints of violent conducts by MACC officer every year but not actions have been taken by the government.
Besides, more victims died under the custody of other enforcement agencies. The report by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on mission to Malaysia in 2011 discovered that from 2003 to 2007, there were 1,535 people died in the custody of prisons, rehabilitation centre and detention centres; 85 other people died in police custody.
From 2010 to February 2017, as many as 1,654 people died in police custody. The coroner court and EAIC set up by the government could not stop the trend, the culture of impunity among enforcement officers is staggering.
Many countries have either enacted Anti Torture Acts or introduce Anti Torture Bills to prevent human rights violations, the examples are as follows:
· Philippines : Anti Torture Act (Enacted in 2009)
· Uganda : Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (Enacted in 2012)
· South Africa : Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act (Enacted in 2013)
· Kenya : Prevention of Torture Act (Enacted in 2017)
· India : Prevention of Torture Bill (Introduced in 2010)
· Pakistan : Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punishment) Bill (Introduced in 2014)
Hence, it is high time for Malaysian government to enact an anti-torture act and empower the national human rights institution (SUHAKAM) to investigate allegations of torture or inhuman treatment committed by enforcement officers.
Such an offence is liable, on conviction, to a fine from ten thousand to one hundred thousand, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years, or imprisonment for life is the victim dies. A Victim Protection Trust Fund should be set up to provide remedy for victims. There should be a policy of zero tolerance of torture.
Ratification of United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)
The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruelty or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) 1984 is one of the international human rights treaty that received overwhelming support from most countries in the world, 163 countries had ratified and 8 signed. It is a shame that Malaysia is amongst the remaining 26 countries neither ratified or signed the treaty.
As the next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Malaysia scheduled in November 2018 and the Malaysian government aims for a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council, it is crucial for the government to strengthen its international obligation on human rights by adopting the UNCAT.
The ratification of UNCAT shall ensures that all Malaysian laws comply with the international human rights law, and new bills or regulations be introduced to protect citizens from torture and inhuman treatment, including the earlier proposed Anti-Torture Act.
Compulsory Human Rights Training for All Public Servants
Many civil society organisations referred the 2005 Report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police as the origins of the idea of Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). In fact, the report also proposed police officers to receive human rights training.
We are of the view that all public servants, particularly enforcement officers, should receive compulsory human rights training at the commencement of their works.
MACC officers, police officers, detention camp officers ought to understand the concept of human rights and refrain from use unnecessary force against citizens or non-citizens. They should also know the repercussion of their violent actions.
It is also vital for non-enforcement officers to understand the idea of human rights. Many a times, public servants make decision on a development plan in the comfort of their air-conditioned room, not knowing that the project might lead to eviction of indigenous or marginalized people using undue force and violence or that it might cause pollution that is harmful to the people health. Such projects and its implementation violated the right to a safe environment and adequate standard of living of the people.
Civil society leader as the Chief Commissioner of MACC
The murder of Teoh Beng Hock is the consequence of the politicization of MACC as an institution. Teoh was summoned to assist in an investigation during the “MACC operation” against 7 Pakatan Rakyat state assemblymen in Selangor. This happened after the “successful” overturning of Perak state government from Pakatan Rakyat to Barisan Nasional.
This operation involved 33 MACC investigating officers from Shah Alam, Klang and Putrajaya. But after 9 years, none of the 7 state assemblymen were charged by MACC. Thus, we question the basis of such operation. The panel of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Teoh Beng Hock had criticized MACC officers for not surveying the market price of the national flag bought by Teoh’s boss, but instead carried out the investigation purely base on a complaint. This is an example to show that the investigation was ill-founded and unnecessary.
We reiterate that MACC had failed to investigate and provide a satisfactory answer to the people of Malaysia on the alleged RM2.6 billion scandals on 1MDB involving the Prime Minister. We felt that, in such comparison, MACC investigation against the 7 Pakatan Rakyat state assemblymen 9 years ago was clearly politically motivated. This dirty political game had caused a life, Teoh Beng Hock, a wife without a husband, a son Teoh Er Jia without his father.
MACC must be a fully independent and professional body that investigates corruption and malpractice in adherence to human rights principles and without political influence. The government should stop using MACC as a political tool to repress the opposition or dissidents.
We propose that to do achieve that, the government should appoint an eminent civil society leader with good human rights track record as the Chief Commissioner of the MACC.
Bring perpetrators to justice and reparation for all victims
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy urges all political parties commit to the vision of a torture-free society by ensuring all laws and regulations are human rights compliance.
This can be done, for the least, by amending section 30(3)(a), enacting an anti-torture act, ratifying UNCAT, ensuring compulsory human rights education, appointing a civil society leader as MACC Chief and bringing justice and reparation for families of custodial death.
If GE14 is a battle for a better future for the next generation, then the future generation should not be confronted by tragic deaths such as Teoh Beng Hock, Ahmad Sarbani, A. Kugan or Kamarulnizam Ismail.
A . Samad Said
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy