Lawyers for Liberty refers to the detention of the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers who are purportedly implicated with the ‘Geng Nicky’ crackdown by the Johor police force.
The statement issued by the Johor police chief stating that those arrested were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for the purpose of conducting an investigation under Sections 130V – 130ZB of the Penal Code.
We fail to see any justification for the use of Sosma in this instance. Based on their own statement, it seems that the police have gathered enough information to narrow down its list of suspects to a handful of specific individuals, and the subsequent arrests were then widely publicised in media, which rids any notion that Sosma is being used to acquire any sensitive information or to avoid alerting any interested third party from being notified of the impending investigation.
The only logical reason that Sosma was used here is therefore to maximise the period of detention of the suspects involved, which based on our observation, is a common reason why Sosma is used.
LFL strongly objects to the use of Sosma for these investigations as it allows for an extremely long period of detention, up to 28 days, with no recourse for those arrested to plea against their continued incarceration. This is tantamount to a detention without trial and is in violation of the fundamental principle of “innocent before proven guilty”.
Sosma is a procedural law that leads to sham trials and convictions. It excludes fundamental safeguards found in the Criminal Procedure Code, the Evidence Act and other laws. Evidence that is normally inadmissible in a normal criminal trial is admissible in a Sosma trial, including evidence obtained by oppression, torture or even fabrication as the ‘evidence’ tendered will normally be admissible no matter how it was obtained.
The accused will not be able to challenge or cross-examine most of the evidence admitted under Sosma as it allows for a protected witness to give evidence in anonymity, thus contravening basic standards of a fair trial. In short, a trial under Sosma is a mockery of the rule of law and the criminal justice system.
While we do applaud the police for ramping up its enforcement against organised crime, it is unfortunate that it is done in tandem with the usage of draconic laws such as Sosma that lack any semblance of transparency, which would lead to the emergence of another aspect of abuse of power among enforcement personnel. The police basically are just replacing the problem with another problem, creating an unending cycle of abuse of power in their midst.
We thus urge the police to act earnestly in combating organised crime and weeding out rotten individuals from their ranks by following the letter of the law. LFL believes that the best way to achieve this is by letting errant police officers be dealt with by an independent body to ensure a transparent and thorough investigation is carried out.
Zaid Malek is coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty