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Wang Kelian death camps: Royal commission of inquiry must bring justice to victims, families

A cage used for illegal immigrants found at a human-trafficking camp in Wang Kelian, near the Malaysia-Thailand border of Wang Kelian - File photograph: Hasnoor Hussain/The Malaysian Insider

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The Malaysian Bar welcomes Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement that the government will set up a royal commission of inquiry to investigate the case of the human trafficking death camps that were uncovered in Wang Kelian, Perlis almost four years ago.

The more than 150 graves at the “death camps” spread across various remote sites — as reported by the New Straits Times on 26 May 2015 — are widely believed to have contained the remains of trafficking victims or smuggled migrants who died while in the custody of traffickers or smugglers. Such a discovery within our borders was shocking and unprecedented.

The Malaysian Bar urges the royal commission of inquiry to conduct an impartial and comprehensive inquiry into all the facts and circumstances surrounding the mass graves and death camps, and the human trafficking they point to, as well as the allegations of, among others, a cover-up, complicity, collusion, and corruption of law enforcement agencies.

A report of the investigations, findings and conclusions by the commission must be produced and published in the interest of openness, transparency and accountability in this undoubtedly weighty matter of public interest.

We also urge the government to immediately set up an independent police complaints and misconduct commission, as announced by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on 21 September 2018. The establishment of such a police complaints commission as an independent, external oversight body tasked solely to receive and investigate complaints against the police must be made a legislative priority. It is this complaints commission that will take action on the findings of the royal commission of inquiry. There must be no cover-up for or protection of any wrongdoers.

The government must — at all costs — bring those responsible for these heinous atrocities to task, and ensure that such tragedies never recur.

George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.

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