LETTER | Police must arrest suspects, not shoot them dead
LETTER | Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is appalled that four persons were shot dead on Christmas day by the Malaysian police, and they were allegedly not even armed with guns firing at the police.
This is yet another case of extrajudicial killing by the Malaysian police that ought to be independently investigated to determine that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the police.
The national news agency, Bernama, provides us with the police version of what happened, but this is simply not right.
It is best that an inquest is held by a judicial officer, the magistrate. The police should not be investigating cases where its own officers are the alleged killers or perpetrators of crime.
A police officer is duty-bound to only arrest suspects of crimes, who then will be investigated. If investigations reveal they have committed a crime, then suspects will be charged in court and the accused is accorded the right to a fair trial.
One is only guilty of any crime after the courts and after trial find the accused person guilty.
If the person to be arrested tries to avoid arrest or use force, then the law in section 15(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that ‘If such person forcibly resists the endeavours to arrest him or attempt to evade the arrest such officer or another person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.’
The primary objective is to effect arrest not to kill the suspects.
Were the police shooting to effect the arrest or to kill? Could they have not shot and injured these suspects, in their 20s, and instead arrested them?
If one of the four suspects accidentally died, and the others were shot and arrested, it may be reasonable. But, yet again, all four suspects were shot dead – and not even one was arrested injured. So, no suspect can tell us their version of what happened.
Article 11(1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that ‘Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.’
In extrajudicial killings as in this case, at the very most they are but suspects – and as such they must always be presumed innocent.
As in some previous cases in Malaysia, after the killings, the police is quick to, maybe wrongly, ‘defame’ the dead, by making assertions such as “…Checks revealed that all the suspects, in their 20s, were members of a masked robbery gang that the police had been looking for.
"We believe all the suspects had been involved in more than 50 robberies in Selangor since the beginning of this year and two of them had criminal records…”
In the determination of guilt, police suspicions and beliefs are irrelevant. It is for the court to determine whether a person is guilty or not.
It also is common for some of these news reports of a police shooting that resulted in deaths to say that arms and valuables are found in the vehicle.
“Inside the car, police found several machetes, jewellery, cash, some helmets and black clothes believed to be used by the suspects to carry out the robbery,” Bernama reported.
If they were previously long identified suspects, the question that arises is why were they earlier not arrested or even brought in for questioning? Were there arrest warrants issued before or in existence when they were killed?
Are the now reported ‘beliefs’ of the police true, or is it simply an attempted justification for the deaths?
The dead, obviously, do not have the capacity to now defend against these possibly ‘false’ allegations. Maybe, an independent inquiry will reveal the truth.
Would these deaths now mean that all these cases like the ’50 robberies in Selangor’ be considered closed? Is it possible that the four were innocent, and the real perpetrators are still at large? Now that a trial is avoided, will the police and prosecutors also be freed from having the burden of proving the guilt of the accused?
Another disturbing concern is the speed about the police suspicions of the involvement of the dead in past crimes gets reported, hours after they have been shot dead. If, the police came out with a statement of these past suspicions several days later, after spending some time investigating, it may be more plausible or believable.
It must be noted that past convictions of crimes are really irrelevant in determining whether one is guilty of a new and/or different crime.
The other possible justification for the police action in this Bernama report “…The police officers gave a chase and as they caught up, the suspect’s car rammed into a female GrabFood rider and dragged her for about a few metres.
“After running into the rider, the car could not go forward. The driver tried to ram the rider again prompting the police to fire several shots at the suspect’s car to save the victim,” Selangor Police acting chief Arjunaidi Mohamed told reporters at the scene.
The said female rider seems to have “…suffered injuries on several parts of her body and was taken to the Sungai Buloh Hospital for treatment…”
Would a speeding car that crashed into a motorbike cause more serious injuries or even death? Isn’t the testimony of the GrabFood rider important to determine the truth? Did the car try to ‘ram the rider again’? An independent inquiry is much needed to determine the truth.
Madpet demands speedy independent investigations and inquiries into all ‘police shot dead’ incidents, which is necessary to clear doubts of police wrongdoings and/or abuse of power. An open inquest by a judicial officer should also be held for all such police shooting incidents.
Madpet also urges police to arrest suspects and try the very best to avoid killing them.
Malaysia must end all forms of extrajudicial killings, and ensure every person is accorded the right to a fair trial. Until found guilty by a court of law, everyone must be presumed innocent.
The right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence principle also calls for the abolition of all Detention Without Trial Laws, where persons not tried or found guilty by the court are detained/restricted without even the ability to challenge in court the reasons used by the administration to detain/restrict them.
CHARLES HECTOR represents Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (Madpet). - Malaysiakini, 27/12/2020