Thursday, January 06, 2011

Malaysian Bar: Search for the truth must continue (Teoh Beng Hock's death in custody case)

Press Release: Search for the truth must continue

The Malaysian Bar regrets that, after extensive hearing of evidence from numerous witnesses, the Coroner’s Court delivered an open verdict yesterday in the inquest to determine the cause of Teoh Beng Hock’s death.  While it is heartening that the Coroner ruled out suicide, the inability to make a definitive finding is unsatisfactory, and leaves many issues unresolved in this matter of great public interest.

Such indecisive findings cast grave doubts on the effectiveness of the inquest mechanism and renders the whole process meaningless.

The Coroner failed to consider a vital aspect of the matter: Teoh was under the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) when he died, which invariably places the burden on the MACC to account for his death.  In addition, the Coroner ought to have reprimanded the conduct of the investigating officer in respect of the introduction of the handwritten note midway through the inquest, and ordered further investigation into his conduct.

We reaffirm our call for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Enquiry (“RCE”) to continue the search for the truth and go beyond the scope of the inquest.  We welcome the news that the Government is expected to announce the setting up of the RCE shortly. 

The RCE must be given a wide ambit to investigate the circumstances and cause of Teoh’s death and to conduct a concomitant review of the MACC’s interrogation and investigation techniques.  These two aspects are intrinsically interlinked and cannot be analysed in isolation from one another.  The complexities of the case require nothing less than a holistic and inclusive examination of all the relevant facts by the RCE.  The RCE should also examine the shortcomings within the criminal justice system, and ensure that protocols are introduced to guarantee full compliance with accepted norms of the criminal justice system. 

Teoh’s family, colleagues and friends, and the Malaysian public, deserve nothing less than the Government’s absolute commitment in this regard.

The Malaysian Bar again extends its heartfelt sympathy to Teoh’s family and loved ones.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

6 January 2011

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