Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) welcomes the Malaysian government’s decision, announced by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that the nation’s enforcement officers will be equipped with body cameras to boost efficiency in fighting crime and combating corruption” (New Straits Times, 19 September 2019).
This will not only combat corruption and other abuse of power but also enhance the personal security of all enforcement officers and improve the administration of criminal justice.
It is important that these CCTV and body cameras record and store information, which can later be accessed and be used as evidence in trials and other inquiries, including inquests, if required. They may reveal the truth even in cases of deaths in custody and fatal police shootings.
Madpet is also happy that “the government will allocate RM73m to install CCTV cameras in all police lockups nationwide, says Law Minister Datuk Seri Liew Vui Keong” (The Star, 20 September 2019). It is hoped that CCTV cameras are installed at every location in police stations and other enforcement agencies’ facilities.
This will also be evidence that the police followed the law, including standard operating procedures and the law in all cases.
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CCTV records would have helped solve the mystery behind the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock, who was found dead in 2009 on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam several hours after he was interrogated by the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission at its office on the 14th floor of the same building.
The body cams and dash cams would help in clearing the police of extrajudicial killings including recent cases; in one of these cases, where three were shot dead, the family have made complaints to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) which question the police version of what really happened.
CCTV cameras had been installed in some police lock-ups for some time now, but the problem was that they did not have recording capabilities and were used by usually a police personnel to monitor what is happening in the lock-ups.
In some previous inquests, where the victim was found dead in police cells, CCTV evidence could not be adduced because there were no recordings to tender and the police officers who were supposed to be monitoring allegedly saw nothing. In other cases, the CCTV was allegedly non-functional.
As such, the government also needs to provide sufficient money to ensure that all these CCTVs and body cams are always functioning well. Without recording capabilities, CCTV, dash cams or body cams are of little use.
It is important that the Malaysian government spends money on CCTV and body cams with recording capacity. These records should be stored for at least six years or more if investigations are still open or the cases are still in the courts.
Six years is proposed because it is the current limitation for civil suits. A person arrested could also be assaulted or even killed by a civilian, not just some enforcement officer.
It must be pointed out that the use of body cams is already happening in many jurisdictions. Cams are also mounted on enforcement vehicles.
In many workplaces in the private sector, CCTV cameras are installed to monitor the workplace. The question of invasion of privacy does not arise, more so as we are talking about public servants.
In Hong Kong, a suspect (who may also later become the accused) and/or his/her lawyers have the right to get recordings from the point of arrest to release, which also includes recordings of any police interrogations and questioning.
Madpet thus urges the Malaysian government to install CCTV cameras at all locations in police stations and enforcement offices, including interrogation rooms, and not simply limit them to lock-ups.
Madpet reiterates the call for speedy inquests into all deaths caused by alleged extrajudicial killings by police or other enforcement agencies.
Madpet also calls for the enactment of laws with deterrent sentences for crimes committed by the police and/or other enforcement officers – for their actions and omissions can seriously affect the administration of justice and human rights.
Madpet also calls on the Malaysian government to continue to improve public perception of the administration of justice in Malaysia.
Charles Hector released this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).