Friday, June 26, 2015

'Pota an open invitation for detainee torture' - Abolish Torture in Malaysia

See also: 

MADPET(26/6/2009):Make Malaysia Torture-Free - Ratify Convention on Torture, Set Up the IPCMC

Join the Campaign by signing the ONLINE PETITION 

Calling on Malaysia to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture


'Pota an open invitation for detainee torture'

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015 can easily open up space for abuse and torture, cautions Malaysian Bar Council president Steven Thiru.

Speaking at the launch of the Joint Campaign for Malaysia's Accession to the Convention Against Torture (ACT4CAT) at University Malaya today, Thiru (photo) said that Pota in its current form contains many provisions that can be abused.

"Experiences of those held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) are perhaps the best evidence of torture in detention and there is enough in Pota to say that it is a revival of ISA," he said.

He warned that Pota had the potential to be even worse than the ISA as the latter at least defined its targets clearly while the former left the definition of a 'terrorist' wide open.

Plus the fact, he added, that someone who is arrested under Pota just 'disappears into the system'.

Thiru said that anyone arrested under Pota was handled behind closed doors and this could very well lead to torture being used on prisoners.

Thiru explained the situation was exacerbated by Section 10(3) of the controversial act which states that a police officer may '… procure and receive all evidence, whether the evidence be admissible or not under any written law, which he may think necessary or desirable.'

This provision implies that the officer has the sanction to utilise torture to extract evidence and information if he or she  deems it necessary.

'Be serious, stop torture'

"We need to say that we do not want Pota, because it seems that torture can thrive under it and we do not want any law that allows torture," he insisted.

This is one of the reasons why the Bar Council has lent their support to this joint campaign calling for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), he said

Also for the campaign were Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), Suaram, Suhakam and Amnesty International Malaysia.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said they realised  there won't be an overnight change in terms of using torture if the government ratifies UN-CAT.

"It is an ongoing change but what we want is for the Malaysian government to show that it is serious about torture eradication," she said.- Malaysiakini, 26/6/2015

"...Torture is under-reported. That is a simple, plain fact. The numbers are vague and ambiguous because around the world, governments smother the truth to hide incidences of torture. And despite this, the general public consensus tells us that people are fearful of being tortured in the custody of the authorities. People should not need to live in fear. As a global community, we need to move towards recognition of torture as a cruel, inhuman and most importantly, a criminal act that violates the international understanding and acceptance of human rights...

Inmates and detainees are locked behind bars and tucked away from the sight of society. Hidden, the actions of the police force and other authorities remain unknown, hence unquestioned. Hidden, inmates remain vulnerable to torture and cruel treatment with no means of voicing it. Imprisonment for a crime is not a warrant to disregard the rights of an individual. 

Right here, right now, why do we need to address torture in Malaysia? Suaram reports that in 2015, there have been 9 cases of deaths in police custody – 6 in hospital, 1 in lock-up, 1 in prison and 1 in a detention centre, bringing the total number of deaths in police custody to 251 from the year 2000. Amnesty International Malaysia’s focus this year has been in joining the call for the establishment of a dedicated independent police oversight mechanism to tackle the issues of torture and deaths in police custody. 

Incidences of torture and questionable deaths continue to permeate law enforcement agencies. You are probably aware of the recent ghastly discovery of mass graves between the borders of Thailand and Malaysia. Most of the bodies found have either been Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar or economic migrants from Bangladesh. In the past few months, a horror story began playing out at the Thai-Malaysia border. One hundred and thirty-nine graves of victims of human trafficking were discovered, after initial vehement denials of such camps on the Malaysian side. As this story unfolded, 12 police personnel were held on suspicion of having links to people-smuggling camps weeks before the Perlis police chief claimed there were no elements of foul play in 26 of the 139 human remains. Days later on June 22, when 21 bodies were laid to rest, the Home Minister revealed that causes of death included disease, starvation, torture and murder. What has happened and is happening to trafficking victims is barbaric. One of the many things this issue has exposed is how the police are unable to police themselves, and hence why we continue to advocate for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission or IPCMC. Further, an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, Ali Abdul Jalil, who is facing three counts of sedition and was shuttled between police stations in Selangor and Johor in 2014, had alleged being punched in his stomach, slapped in his face, and hit on his leg with a baton and rubber pipe whilst detained at the Sungai Buloh prison. To date, Ali’s allegations of torture have not been investigated. 

A system of accountability is the essence of the UN Convention Against Torture. At the local level, a signatory is required to implement mechanisms to address the issue of accountability in torture cases. At the global level, signatories to the convention would be held accountable to international values and standards against torture. Ratification of the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol will signal the Malaysian government’s effort to eradicate torture, ensure that torturers are found out and brought to book as well as demonstrate the intention to protect from harm those deprived of their liberty. 

The ratification of the UN CAT and its Optional Protocol will not mark a swift end to torture practices, but it will demonstrate a government’s firm commitment to put an end to a deplorable practice which has existed for far too long. Ratifying the Convention will also put a spotlight on domestic laws and their compatibility with the treaty obligations. The US Senate just last week amended its National Defense Authoritisation Act, or NDAA, to ban US officials from using torture techniques including mock executions, sexual humiliation, hooding prisoners and waterboarding. The amendment to the NDAA is largely attributed to distressing reports which revealed torture practices by the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA – a laudable move in the effort to wipe out state-sanctioned torture...
What remains crucial is Malaysia’s commitment to eradicate state-sanctioned, state-approved, state-supported torture. Malaysia remains one of about 30 countries in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention Against Torture. It is almost mind-boggling that any government would not want to assure its citizens and the global community that it would not ill-treat, degrade, cause harm or inflict torture its people. Make no mistake, torturers are international outlaws. A robust international legal framework has been built up with the Convention Against Torture and over 150 countries are state parties to this UN Convention. This is real and meaningful progress. We want the Malaysian government to protect people within its borders, be it citizens or non. The culture of impunity must end....
Amnesty International Malaysia is honoured to be partnering with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar, Lawyers For Liberty and Suaram in this ACT4CAT Campaign, to advocate for Malaysia to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol without delay. With the act of ratification, Malaysia would declare that it will no longer tolerate acts of torture and demonstrate solidarity with other members of the global community. AI Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to recognise that it has the primary responsibility to strengthen the protection of people deprived, and to establish and implement effective safeguards against torture as a route to change. These include key safeguards implemented at the time of arrest, in detention, within the judicial process, during questioning and after a detainee is released.

In line with this call, Amnesty International Malaysia is launching a petition calling on the Malaysian government to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture. This initiative will run from today and conclude in December. The petitions are available on as well as on our social media platforms. We will announce the results of this petition in December...." - Extract of speech of Shamini Darshni, Executive Director, AI Malaysia - 26/6/2015 >> Source: Malaysian Bar Website

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