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Death in custody case: Why didn’t three police officers show up to testify?

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Three civil society groups have written an open letter to the chief of Bukit Aman’s standards compliance department over three police officers” failure to testify in a case involving a death in custody.

Zamri Yahya, director of Bukit Aman’s Integrity and Standards Compliance Department (JIPS), tell us what you are doing and will do about three police officers against whom the Kuala Lumpur Coroner’s Court issued warrants of arrest on 27 August 2019

Benedict Thanilas was arrested on 29 June 2017 and detained in the Jinjang lock-up. On 10 July 2017, he died while still in police custody. Benedict’s case is therefore a case of death in police custody.

An inquiry into Benedict’s death is in progress in the Kuala Lumpur Coroner’s Court. (On) 26 August, three police officers were slated to testify. Their names appeared in the witness list. They did not appear.

After listening to the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) and supported by the lawyer acting for Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (Edict), the coroner issued warrants of arrest against the three officers. Their names are Muhammad Hafiz Hassan, Mohamad Hakim Hawari and Mohd Nasir Mohd Hashim.

The DPP told the court all three officers had been issued subpoenas and had been informed in advance. The DPP even told the court all phone calls to the three officers were in vain as they refused to pick up calls from the investigating officer, the DPP and the court.

We note that all three officers failed to appear in court. We note the feeling among the public that they conspired not to appear.

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We further note that during an earlier hearing day, 26 June 2019, the investigating officer in the case, Shahruddin Rajab, informed the court that entry registrations, medical reports and CCTV footage for the period 26-29 June 2017 had been disposed of.

The conduct of the police in this matter – vis-à-vis the disposal of critical evidence, taken together with the probable conspiracy of three police to refuse to appear before a lawfully constituted court – is alarming.

Public confidence in the police is at an all-time low, after the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) concluded on 5 April this year that the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, is responsible for the enforced disappearances of social activist Amri Che Mat and pastor Raymond Koh.

Not surprisingly, Suhakam has added its voice to the public clamour for an independent police complaints and misconduct commission.

As Inspector General of Police Hamid Bador has said, a few bad officers give the largely good police force a bad name. The bad cops must be dealt with and must be seen to be dealt with.

We therefore call upon you to take prompt action against the three (named) police officers against whom warrants of arrest were issued by the coroner. We further call upon you to issue a press statement … describing what actions have been and will be taken against the three officers by the Royal Malaysian Police.

  • Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (Edict)
  • Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged)
  • Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
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