Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nude squats again... Torture by police during detention needs more than guidelines..

Torture by police during detention needs more than guidelines..

Well, after the expose of the 'nude squat' incident (in 2005, I believe) and the numerous deaths in custody incidences which points to the possibility of occurrence of torture involving police or other enforcement officers, which led to amendments in Malaysia's law and the introduction of guidelines, we all expected that such incidences will no more be happening in Malaysia - but alas it still seem to be continuing.

Previously, such 'torture' after arrest may have been to get suspects to confess their crime - but then after the Criminal Procedure Code was amended, such statements and/or confessions can no longer be used to get convictions, so, why is torture  is still happening...(Now, such statements could be used only if the person is charged for making false statements...)

113.  Admission of statements in evidence. (Criminal Procedure Code)
(1) Except as provided in this section, no statement made by any person to a police officer in the course of a police investigation made under this Chapter shall be used in evidence.
(2) When any witness is called for the prosecution or for the defence, other than the accused, the court shall, on the request of the accused or the prosecutor, refer to any statement made by that witness to a police officer in the course of a police investigation under this Chapter and may then, if the court thinks fit in the interest of justice, direct the accused to be furnished with a copy of it and the statement may be used to impeach the credit of the witness in the manner provided by the Evidence Act 1950 [Act 56].
(3) Where the accused had made a statement during the course of a police investigation, such statement may be admitted in evidence in support of his defence during the course of the trial.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to apply to any statement made in the course of an identification parade or falling within section 27 or paragraphs 32(1)(a), (i) and (j) of the Evidence Act 1950.

(5) When any person is charged with any offence in relation to-

(a) the making; or (b) the contents, of any statement made by him to a police officer in the course of a police investigation made under this Chapter, that statement may be used as evidence in the prosecution's case.
The problem is that those guilty of abusing their power and torturing have not been taken to task, charged and tried in an open court, and, if found guilty given a deterrent sentence. 

The problem is that we still do not CCTV with recording capabilities at all places in the police station, so that it will be easy to identify the alleged perpetrators.

The problem is that what has been recommended by 2 Royal Commissions, that is an Independent Police Complaints and Misconducts Commission, where victims could go and complaint about police misconduct was not set up by the government. To go complaint to the police about torture and/or wrongdoing of police or other enforcement personnel will not work - as the general impression is that police will protect fellow police officers, and the complainant may end up being charged with making a false report/complaint, and when it comes to witnesses, most of the time there is that one victim, and so many police officers (or others who will not go against the police for fear of repercussions..)

What about SUHAKAM? Yes, you could lodge the complaint there - but all SUHAKAM can do is investigate and then make recommendations. They do not have the power yet to prosecute the wrongdoer. Maybe, it is time we gave SUHAKAM that power..But, even with SUHAKAM, the problem is the persons appointed as Commissioners, and for a public inquiry on a complaint it requires a majority (or is it two thirds) of the Commissioners to support it, so that is why we have so little public inquiries being conducted by SUHAKAM. It still remains a 'toothless tigers' - and even the few good Commissioners can't do much for so long as the Chairman and the majority are too scared to act especially when the person complaint against is a government or public servant.

State governments, I believe can set up their own 'Commissions', committees, etc to investigate alleged human rights violations that happen in their own state - but they too have not taken steps in that direction. 

What about Parliament? Parliamentary select committees?  ...or similar structures in State legislative assemblies. 

Political will - this is what we need but alas our BN government is not really interested in such matters like human rights, and is more interested in matters of a financial nature.

Nude squats are wrong - more importantly, we have get rid of 'torture' - and, it is not enough everytime a case gets the media attention, for the Minister to react and set up some 'multi-agency inquiry' - let's have a couple of MPs/Senators from both the government and opposition in this inquiry panel as give it credibility. Maybe some persons from SUHAKAM and the Bar as well..

The Home Ministry has ordered a multi-agency inquiry into the nude squat complaint involving two Singaporeans last week.

NONEMinister Hishammuddin Hussein said the inquiry will involve at least the Immigration Department and the police, and expects that it will start today.

"We have to get to the bottom of it," he told a press conference at the Parliament lobby today.

Hishammuddin said it is not common practice for immigration officers to order suspected illegal immigrants to perform nude squats.

He however declined to elaborate on the issue, saying that it is best to wait for the outcome of the inquiry.
Last week, Singaporean Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported that the two women were detained on suspicion of being illegal immigrants after they forgot to stamp their passports en route to Johor Baru for supper on June 9.

The pair were detained at a lock-up in Pontian, where they were allegedly told to strip and perform 10 squats naked before they were given clothes meant for detainees and held for 24 hours.

Hishammuddin evaded numerous questions on the details of the incident, repeatedly stressing that it will all be made known once the inquiry is completed and a report is submitted.

'Not handled by frontliners'

He however defended the Immigration officers manning the immigration checkpoint, stating that the alleged incident was not handled by the department's “frontliners”.

“The way the issue has played out is as if it was committed by the frontliners, but it is wrong to say it was (done by) immigration frontliners. The incident happened at the detention depot,” he said.

Hishammuddin acknowledged that there may be a need to revamp the department's standard operating procedures (SOP), but stressed that any decision to do so must be based on the results of the inquiry.

“(Immigration officers') actions are based on SOP. If (the SOP) does not fulfil the atmosphere and situation of today, then it needs to be changed but it must be based on the investigations,” he said.

Last week's nude squat issue is the second such incident to hit Malaysian shores, after a short video clip made its rounds in 2005 depicting a nude woman doing squats while in police custody.

The incident eventually led to a royal commission of inquiry that came up with a list of recommendations and the mooting of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).- Malaysiakini, 15/6/2011, Hisham: Immediate inquiry into Nude Squat II