Home Civil Society Voices Bodycams and CCTV will deter extrajudicial killings

Bodycams and CCTV will deter extrajudicial killings

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Another extrajudicial killing by the Malaysian police, this time at the end on 2023, when a 44-year-old man was shot dead in Penang (Malaysian Insight, 31 December 2023)

A few days before that, we read that three Rohingyas were shot dead by police in Selayang, Selangor (Malay Mail, 23 December 2023).

A total of 279 suspects have been shot dead by the police between 2000 and 2009, as revealed by a minister in Parliament in 2010 (Malaysiakini, 28 June 2010). Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also revealed that the police shot dead 82 suspects in 2008, and 88 in 2009. How many extrajudicial killings since then?

One must recall the coroners’ court decision that was handed down on 31 May 2022 which “concluded that there was abuse of power and elements of a criminal nature in the death of three men who were shot at close range by police three years ago….

“The shots were not fired in self-defence. There was abuse of power and (actions in the nature of) criminal elements by police in the death of the men,”…

She [Coroner Rasyihah Ghazali] said scientific evidence with regards to the position of the bodies and the weapons allegedly found on the two men did not tally with the oral testimonies of the policemen.

“The weapons described by the ballistic expert (Izzuwan Marzuki) and the investigating officer (P Visvanathan) were also in conflict,” she said.

She said police witnesses gave evidence that shots were fired at the men from an upright position but post-mortem reports stated that the bullets pierced their bodies at a downward angle… (Free Malaysia Today, 31 May 2022)

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) urges for immediate and speedy inquests, by competent coroners like Rasyihah Ghazali, for these two recent media reported cases of extrajudicial killings and all such killings by police.

The coroners’ court must give us a speedy decision, preferably within a couple months, and certainly not three years after the extrajudicial killing.

Madpet calls for the immediate suspension of all police officer(s) who shot and killed until the coroner determines there was no abuse of power or criminal liability on the part of the police officers who shot and killed. These officers should at least be given desk jobs, with no access to any firearms until they are cleared of guilt.

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Madpet urges the police, the state and ‘pro-government’ media not to participate in efforts to justify the extrajudicial killings, by painting the now deceased victims as bad people or even ‘criminals’.

The crime to be investigated is the extrajudicial killing and nothing else. Even if the persons killed were previously convicted criminals or drug addicts, it does not matter – all that matters is whether the police are innocent or not.

It was interesting how Penang Police chief Khaw Kok Chin, on the same day, hours after the killing, was able to say this to the media:

“Further investigation revealed that the suspect had 16 prior criminal records involving robberies, drugs, including cases investigated under Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons, besides frequently moving in and out of Simpang Renggam. Khaw said the suspect was active in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca…(Malaysian Insight, 31 December 2023)

Was this really a chance encounter with the team from the serious crimes division (D9 unit)? Did the police go in with the intention to kill? If not, why are the police trying to tell us now that the one killed was a ‘bad’ man?

It does not matter whether the killed are very bad people (according to the police) or not. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law after a fair trial. It is not the police who decide whether one has committed crimes or not, but the judges and courts?

How many times really were these deceased victims previously convicted after trial and sentenced to prison? The fact that the person was running around scot free despite being suspected of about 16 offences in three states simply raises questions about the competence of law enforcement.

Highlighting allegations that the now deceased were involved in that crime and this crime is totally irrelevant, as the police in law only have the duty and power to just arrest, not kill. They are not judges or executioners. One wonders how many were shot and arrested without being killed recently in Malaysia?

Police can only arrest and not kill

Section 15 of the Criminal Procedure Code states:

(2) If such person forcibly resists the endeavor to arrest him or attempt to evade the arrest such officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.

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(3) Nothing in this section gives a right to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for a term of not less than thirty years but not exceeding forty years or with imprisonment for life…

All these victims of these extrajudicial killings are not persons accused of any such offences let alone any criminal offence – as they have yet to be charged in court and so, at most, they are suspects. One becomes an accused person, only after one has been charged in court.

Delay of police bodycams and CCTV

Bodycams and CCTV certainly will help ensure that the police follow the law. It must be a national priority, given the numerous extrajudicial killings by the police, deaths in police custody and allegations of police misbehaviour in Malaysia.

Bodycams and CCTV can also be useful in proving that the police did not ‘murder’ people, but followed the laws dutifully. Did the police officers involved in these extrajudicial killings have bodycams? Were the vehicles the police used even equipped with CCTV recording devices?

If the ‘killer’ police were not wearing bodycams, is it indicative of the failure or incompetence of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his chosen Home Minister, Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, given that budget allocations for the bodycams had already been approved more than a year ago – and there was no justification for the delay in ensuring that all police personnel had bodycams, noting also that other law enforcement units had already started using bodycams?

At the end of July 2023, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Azam Baki said that anti-graft officers going out for operations and enforcement activities will now use bodycams to ensure transparency and to protect them from any allegations.

“This is why we have decided on the use of body cameras which can record both audio and visuals of all incidents that happen during an investigation process.

“I believe by using the body cameras, it will protect MACC officers, those assisting investigations and even suspects,” he [Azam Baki] said. (The Star, 31 July 2023).

On 23 August, it was reported that even Kuala Lumpur City Hall officers also have started using bodycams.

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Hence, the unjustified delay in all police officers being equipped with bodycams falls on Minister Saifuddin, who now says that the full rollout for the police will be completed not this year, but in 2025.

Why? The minister must explain, and if not, then the prime minister must find a more competent minister as bodycams and CCTV for police and law enforcement have long been a top priority.

Madpet notes that the delay in ensuring bodycams for all police personnel also has financial implications for the government, as the courts have been finding police and the government liable for deaths in police custody and extrajudicial killings. Bodycams and CCTV recordings will deter police from breaking the law.

The Court of Appeal in March 2023 reduced damages awarded to the families of three youths – Shamil Hafiz Shapiei, Hairul Nizam Tuah, and Hanafi Omar – shot dead by police 13 years ago to RM210,000 in damages instead of the RM500,000 awarded by the High Court two years ago.

In March 2021, the Federal Court ruled that the Malaysian government was required to pay aggravated damages to the next of kin of a person who dies while in police custody. Chandran’s widow Selvi Narayan and daughter Rita will get total compensation amounting to RM357,000 due to Chandran’s death while in police custody at the Dang Wangi Police station in 2012.

The High Court in December 2019 awarded the family of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur, who died in police custody with 61 wounds on his body five years ago, RM448,000 in compensation and damages.

There have been several other cases where the family of deceased filed cases that have been successful. If there are bodycams and CCTV coverage, they will deter police from breaking laws.

Madpet calls for all police officers to be wearing bodycams within three months, and that CCTV with recording capacity be placed in all areas of the police station, to ensure there is continuous monitoring of suspects arrested to ensure police do not break laws, and to protect suspects’ rights.

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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