Thursday, April 3, 2014

Report: Police stonewalling Suhakam, EAIC

10:55AM Apr 2, 2014-Malaysiakini

Report: Police stonewalling Suhakam, EAIC

Stiff resistance and stonewalling from the police hamper investigations by oversight bodies into misconduct and abuse, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found in a new report released today.

In the 102-page report, HRW noted that neither the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) nor the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) have access to police standard operating procedures (SOPs) particularly on use of firearms.

Former Suhakam officers quoted in the report ‘No Answers, No Apology: Police Abuses and Accountability in Malaysia' said they were met with “stiff resistance” and did not even provide case files for matters Suhakam were probing.

“The police have an unwritten policy of non-cooperation with any oversight body including Suhakam,” former Suhakam commissioner Mohammed Sha'ani Abdullah (right) was quoted as saying.

Ameer Izyanif, who worked as an investigating officer for Suhakam for seven years, said that a “standard answer” received was that “police acted based on procedures”.

“We write again and ask them to explain the procedures but are told that they are confidential. This makes our work difficult,” he told the rights group.

Police claimed they had amended the SOPs on use of firearms following the fatal shooting of Aminulrasyid Amzah, 15, but Suhakam's request to see the amendments were rejected.

EAIC officers interviewed by HRW too said police are “secretive' about their procedures.

“The police have not resisted in meeting with us when we need to take their statement about a case, but when requesting SOPs we encounter problems,” an unnamed EAIC officer reportedly said.

Classified document

Although the parts of the SOP can be gleaned through newspaper reports, the HRW said police constables they spoke to on condition of anonymity said cops can shoot “anywhere” on a person's body if they perceive threat to life.

Often, the police would vaguely state that their actions are in line with the Inspector-General of Police's standing orders - a classified document.

HRW observed that this allowed police to get away with justifying extra-judicial shootings as self-defence by claiming the deceased carried a parang (machete) or were reversing their vehicles into officers.

Although police  every officers is desked pending investigations into shootings, HRW said government and IGP appear to “abdicate their responsibility” in ensuring minimal police misconduct, and the stonewalling has made things worse

“Vague policies, substandard training, lack of transparency, and failure of leadership to investigate and prevent illegal practices all create opportunities for police abuse.”

HRW called on the government to create an independent, external commission tasked solely to investigate complaints about police misconduct and abuse.

It also called on the commission to be endowed the commission with all necessary powers to investigate, compel cooperation from witnesses and government agencies, subpoena documents, and submit cases for prosecution.

The police should fully cooperate with the commission and provide all relevant standing orders and training manuals that apply to police conduct, HRW said.

A recommendation in 2005 by a royal commission of inquiry to create the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) was stringently rejected by the police force.

Eventually, the EAIC was formed instead, which many argued has been stripped of the powers suggested by the royal commission.

In the meantime, reforms should be made to improve the performance of the EAIC to ensure transparency and accountability, said HRW.

“Malaysia’s politicians and police are failing the test when it comes to providing justice to victims of abuses,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at HRW.

“The impact goes beyond those directly harmed, creating dangerous mistrust between the police and the communities they patrol.”

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