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Police must stop abusing remand process

Photograph: Txspiked/Flickr

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Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) has received a concerning report that upwards of 13 individuals have been detained since 26 September and continue to be detained despite repeated instructions by the magistrates’ court for them to be released.

The 13 were first detained at the Kuala Langat Police headquarters on 26 September 2020 for an investigation of a shooting incident that took place in Banting the day before. They were remanded for a total of 11 days for investigation.

When they were supposed to be released, they were rearrested and taken to the Serdang Police headquarters for an investigation into another offence that happened on 1 March 2018. At that point, a new remand order was obtained, and they were detained for an additional four days. On 10 October 2020, police from the Serdang HQ applied for a remand extension but that was rejected, and the police were instructed to release the detainees at 5pm.

The police failed to comply with the instruction, and the individuals were rearrested by the Jinjang Police headquarters for another investigation. A remand application by the Jinjang HQ was rejected on 11 October 2020 with the magistrate instructing the police to release the detainees within 24 hours.

The police failed to comply with the instruction again and rearrested them at the Putrajaya Police headquarters. The remand application was rejected again on 12 October 2020.

The family members were kept in the dark until 14 October, when they found out that the 13 and an additional 14 people were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) by the Selangor Police contingent headquarters.

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After 28 days of detention under Sosma, they were not charged with any offence but were rearrested for investigation under the Societies Act 1966 by the Selangor Police contingent HQ. On 11 November 2020, a police application for further remand was rejected again, with the magistrate instructing the police to immediately release the detainees. The police did not comply with the instructions and have reportedly placed all the detainees under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959.

The practice of chain remand is abhorrent and a violation of the fundamental right to a fair trial. There is no excuse for the police to repeatedly arrest and rearrest anyone, especially when a magistrates’ court has clearly rejected further attempts to remand. The police action, in this case, should be considered as contempt of court and treated as such. The abuse of power in such cases cannot be taken lightly, and stern action must be taken against police officers involved in the matter.

Suaram calls for the immediate release of the detainees. If these individuals have committed any crime, the investigation must follow the rule of law and the provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code. If they are as guilty as the police alleged, they must be charged in court and be given an opportunity to prove their innocence.

This case highlights the immediate need for an independent police complaints and misconduct commission that is empowered to address police abuses. The police force has time and time again proven itself to be above the law and refused to account for the misconduct of its officers. The complaints commission must be in place to challenge police abuse and ensure that the force is a transparent and accountable one.

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13 November 2020

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