Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the raid conducted by the police against Freedom Film Network co-founder Anna Har and animator-artist, Amin Landak over the animated film Chilli Powder and Thinner.
The heavy-handed response of the police to a short film on police brutality with interrogations and raids underscores the exact problem that the short film tries to address: instances of unlawful acts by police conducted with impunity.
Having looked at the entirety of the video, there is nothing in it that warrants a police investigation. The story depicted was a first-hand account of a victim of police brutality, which serves to highlight the alarming statistics of deaths and physical abuse of those in custody, statistics quoted from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
For the police to open an investigation under Sections 500 and 505(b) of the Penal Code as well as Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act would mean that the police are also ignoring and treating with contempt Suhakam, a statutory body.
We remind the police that freedom of expression is protected by Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution, and this right cannot be denied by citing frivolous reasons to institute flimsy police probes. No civilised country would view exposing police misconduct as a crime or threat to public order and safety.
The existence of police brutality is an open secret in our society and despite tactics employed by the police to quell such stories from being revealed, it is a fact that is undeniable. LFL has handled many cases of custodial deaths where similar tactics as shown in the short film were employed; one may recall that in the Dharmendran death-in-custody case, sworn testimonies were given in court by witnesses that chilli padi was used on suspects during ‘interrogation’.
Hence, LFL urges that the police cease all actions against everyone involved in the film Chilli Powder and Thinner. The police must accept the film as an opportunity to clean up their own act and work towards a solution to reduce and eliminate deaths or physical abuse of those in custody. Do not punish activists and artists who are only highlighting the problem to Malaysians.
Zaid Malek is coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty