Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Government must halt deaths in custody and reform MACC now

Press Release

Government must halt deaths in custody and reform MACC now

The Malaysian Bar is appalled at the news of the death of Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed, a Customs Department officer, after he reportedly fell from the third floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) building in Kuala Lumpur.

It is shocking that another person has died in such tragic circumstances, which immediately bring to mind the death of Teoh Beng Hock, who was found on the fifth floor of the MACC’s Selangor headquarters in July 2009. It appears that, despite the Teoh Beng Hock incident, MACC’s procedures involving the welfare and safety of witnesses and suspects have not changed.

MACC’s credibility already leaves much to be desired. MACC officers are either negligent or reckless in fulfilling the duty of care that they owe to those called in for questioning. The institution of Malaysia’s enforcement agencies (both the Customs Department and the MACC) is now tainted, and its integrity in grave doubt.

The Malaysian Bar calls for an immediate inquest into the incident, which was, in all likelihood, a death that occurred while Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed was in MACC’s custody. Chapter XXXII of the Criminal Procedure Code requires that all custodial deaths be investigated by way of inquest.

Public confidence can only be restored, and justice seen to be done, if there is a high-level, independent, far-reaching and effective inquiry into the circumstances and cause of Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed’s death. This incident is a matter of utmost public interest that warrants the highest level of priority. Every death in custody must be thoroughly and impartially investigated. Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed’s death must not be relegated to a mere statistic.

The Malaysian Bar also calls on the Government to conduct, by way of a Royal Commission of Enquiry, a concomitant review of MACC’s operations, interrogation and investigation techniques, and safety and other protocols.

Recent inquiries into deaths of persons that occur whilst in the custody of, or in or around the premises of, law enforcement agencies, have resulted in “open” verdicts. The Malaysian Bar thus calls on the Government to introduce a Coroner’s Act and establish a Coroner’s Court, and to conduct a comprehensive review of the manner in which inquiries into deaths are undertaken.

This incident is the latest in a deplorable string of deaths occurring in the context of investigations carried out by law enforcement agencies. It must be the last.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed’s family and friends.

Lim Chee Wee
Malaysian Bar

6 Apr 2011

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