KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Civil society groups have renewed calls for the government to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), calling the current Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) an organisation without “bite”.
In a public forum organised by the Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC today and in collaboration with several other human rights groups at the Bar Council’s new headquarters near Dataran Merdeka, they insisted that the EAIC had failed to stop deaths in custody.
Other participants included representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), National Human Rights Society (Hakam), the Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia (Proham), and Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT).
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in his opening remarks that the police, the power to arrest and detain, as well as the power to use force, need to come under independent oversight to prevent abuse of those powers.
“Intrinsically linked to this is accountability. Accountable policing means that the police accept being questioned about their actions. Without such transparency, corruption and other forms of police misconduct thrive,” he said.
Razali said the country’s police force needed to be brought up to international standards if problems such as deaths in custody, questionable shooting, perceived corruption and the lack of effectiveness affecting the force were to be resolved.
“The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has defined police accountability as a ‘system of internal and external checks and balances aimed at ensuring that police carry out their duties properly and are held responsible if they fail to do so.”
“Having in place such a mechanism is to uphold police integrity and deter misconduct; as well as to restore or enhance public confidence in policing,” he added.
Razali also said that a lack of funding, poor pay and other issues needed to be resolved in order to improve the police force, and pointed out that most of these recommendations were included in the 125 suggestions in the 2005 IPCMC report.
“It is quite disheartening to know that our police force has been operating within an outdated framework, without the support of modern technology and facilities.
“I am tempted to make the argument that with the use of adequate technology, the police may refrain from resorting to the use of force during investigations and interrogations,” he said.
Panelists at the forum, moderated by co-chairman of the Bar Council task force on IPCMC Datuk Seri M Ramachelvan, were unanimous in their call for external oversight of police.
Suhakam Commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said it was important not to antagonise the police with the push for the commission to be set up and said the public was eager to see greater accountability in the police force.
“It should not be a ‘them versus us’ situation. There needs to be independent oversight of the force to combat the perceived selective and inconsistent enforcement practiced by the police,” he said.
“To the public, certain individuals are arrested for under the Sedition Act or other offenses while others are not. This even creates the impression that the police remand people as a means to teach them a ‘lesson’ rather than in the interest of carrying out an investigation.”
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy was harsher in his criticism of police misconduct, calling the police a truly “independent” enforcement agency.
“They do not follow Standard Operating Procedures, they seem to do what they want. There is a long and well documented list of not only deaths in custody but a seemingly systematic use of torture and degrading treatment of detainees to extract confessions.
“Beatings, being forced to masturbate in view of others and being made to pick up rubber bands off the ground with their mouths…these are only some of the abuses that we know off,” he said.
The IPCMC was mooted by the 2005 royal commission chaired by former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah but shot down by the police, was to be modelled on the United Kingdom’s Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Critics of the commission said the proposed commission would strip away the Attorney-General’s power to prosecute, the police commission on disciplinary issues and the Inspector-General of Police powers to review cases brought before the IPCMC.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament last march that 1,654 people had died in custody between 2010 to February 2017.
Of these 1,037 were Malays, 222 were ethnic Chinese, 185 foreigners, 182 ethnic Indians, and the remaining 28 were from other ethnicities.