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Extrajudicial killings need speedy independent investigations

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is disappointed with the lack of response by the new Pakatan Harapan government, in particular Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the minister in charge of police, about at least three recent reported possible ‘shoot-to-kill’ incidents that involved six individuals shot dead by police.

The duty of the police is to arrest those suspected of committing a crime, and the police can use ‘reasonable force’ in carrying out these arrests.

The Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code, in section 15, states clearly how an arrest is to be made. Section 15 (2) states: “If such person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him or attempts to evade the arrest such officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.” The words used are “to effect arrest” – not kill.

Section 15 (3) states: “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 life.” Stress must be given to the word accused, not just suspected of committing an offence.

Hence, subsequent ‘post-killing’ statements that they were suspected of being involved in past crimes in no way can justify such killings. Sadly, the victims, now dead, cannot even deny these allegations or tell us what really transpired.

The question that arises now is whether these shooting sthat resulted in death were reasonable or really necessary. Were the police shooting to effect an arrest, or were the police shooting to kill?

The three recent reported incidents of concern, which happened after PH become the new government following the 9 May general elections, are as follows:

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Two shot dead by Police (D9) – The Star, 16 May 2018

In the Star report dated 16 May 2018, entitled ‘Cops kill two robbers in shootout’, a police personnel from Bukit Aman Serious Crimes Division (D9) allegedly stopped a car whose occupants inside were ‘acting suspiciously’, and when police identified themselves, shooting ensued, resulting in the deaths of the two occupants. It is suspicious that the car had stopped at the request of police before the shooting allegedly happened.

Suspect shot dead by police (D9) – 19 May 2018

In a Straits Times report dated 19 May 2018, entitled ‘Malaysia cops shoot dead third suspect in Damansara Jaya goldsmith robbery’. It was reported that “SAC Fadzil said that in the latest incident, policemen from the Selangor Police Serious Crimes Investigation Division (D9) had chased the suspect as he sped off in a Honda Civic car, which eventually skidded and crashed into a tree. ‘The suspect came out of the vehicle and opened fire at the policemen. The policemen returned fire and killed the suspect,’ he said in a statement.”

What is odd is that the police, the day before, had said, “According to Selangor Criminal Investigation Department chief Fadzil Ahmad, the incident took place at 5pm on Friday (May 18) after six robbers wearing helmets and jackets stormed into the mall located at the Damansara Jaya area… A shootout ensued and as a result, two suspects were shot dead, while another suspect was injured. Four suspects, including the one injured, were arrested by the police for further investigations…’(The Star/Asia News Network, Straits Times, 18 May 2018).

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There is no mention here of any other suspect escaping, and noting that they were all wearing helmets, one wonders how the police even identified the person killed the following day.

Police shoot man with machete – 21 May 2018

A Star report dated 21 May 2018 was titled ‘Police shoot fake forex syndicate member dead’. Here, the victim was not even shooting at the police, and the report said: “’He came at them with a machete and they had to open fire to defend themselves, killing him,” he said.”

What will our new PH government do about these extrajudicial killings?

Madpet is disappointed that Muhyiddin Yassin, our new Home Minister, who is responsible for the police, or the PH government has failed to respond promptly when these killings happened. They have not yet told Malaysians how they will deal with these cases of police shootings that have resulted in deaths.

This kind of killings had been an issue of concern that has been raised up by many human rights groups, including the Malaysian Bar for the past few decades. But sadly the then Umno-BN government failed to satisfactorily address this matter. It is hoped that our new PH government will finally deal with such issues justly.

The late senior lawyer and former Bar Council president, Raja Aziz Addruse, observed that proper justification must be given for the taking of a life. “Just to say, ‘Because they were shooting at me,’ is insufficient,” he says. “In many of these cases, there’s always a gun found in the car. It’s just too coincidental. Very often, all the people allegedly involved are killed.”

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He also spoke of “the need for an independent tribunal to look into police shootings. ‘In other countries, an independent inquiry would be held to find out what happened,” he says. “For example, in the UK, an inquiry was held in the case of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.” The inquiry eventually found the Met police force guilty of endangering public safety, and it was penalised for shooting de Menezes dead.’

How the new PH government deals with these recent cases of ‘extra-judicial killings’, more so since these incidents happened after they became the new government of Malaysia, is crucial.

There certainly must be quick independent inquiries into these recent incidents, which have resulted in six deaths, possibly more, noting that not all such incidents get reported.

While Madpet appreciates the fact that the new PH federal government is in the process of establishing an Independent Police Complaints-Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as mentioned by Muhyiddin Yassin on 22 May, steps need to be taken now to immediately investigate these police ‘shoot-to-kill’ incidents. Delay is not an option.

Madpet proposes that the minister immediately appoints an interim task force to investigate these cases. Further, the minister and/or the government should maybe order that inquests (or inquiries into the deaths) be done for all such cases where police shootings result in deaths.

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