LETTER | The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) welcomes the minister of home affairs’ assurance that there will be internal investigations on allegations of police misconduct against five individuals detained under the Security Offences (Special Measure) Act (Sosma) 2012. However, these assurances are simply not enough.
The recent Sosma detentions involving of 12 men allegedly linked to the now-defunct LTTE and the subsequent allegations on torture show us clearly as to why there should be two major law reforms both of which are promises made in the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto.
For the record, there have been over 1,000 people detained between 2015 to 2018 under Sosma some of whom have alleged police misconduct too. In 2016, there were allegations of degrading acts such being forced to kiss the foot of his investigating officer, forced to masturbate while they watched, forced to watch pornographic videos with the officers, and forced to make a pronouncement of divorce upon one’s wife.
Proham has two demands, first, repeal Sosma once and for all. Detentions without trial are ripe for possible abuse by authorities. The public, our Parliament and cabinet must be made aware that different rules of evidence and trial procedure that apply to Sosma are not just against international human rights standards but are simply unfair and indecent.
If we unpackage existing Sosma procedures, they go against natural justice. When you are arrested, you are not brought before a magistrate 24 hours after arrest as is required by the Federal Constitution as check-and-balance in cases of wrongful arrests.
Furthermore, you can be detained for not more than 28 days as all that is required is ‘a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent to extend the period of detention. Then, you are not allowed bail, which means that during this period of 28 days, cut off from external scrutiny the detained may be subject to ill – treatment amounting to torture.
Additionally “any statement by an accused whether orally or in writing to any person at any time” can be admitted into evidence, with no exception for evidence possibly obtained under duress.
Sosma also allows for “protected witnesses” whose identity is concealed from the accused and their counsel, to give evidence. These protected witnesses give evidence in camera, the accused never sees his accuser and the latter’s lawyer cannot cross-examine or challenge the evidence. Basically the person’s fundamental liberties are compromised and in fact it the detention itself is already a form of punishment.
Secondly, these allegations of torture are precisely why we need an independent police commission, an independent body that can investigate without prejudice these allegations. External investigations eliminate any doubts that there may any form of cover-ups or conflict of interest.
In this instance, although the inspector-general of police has categorically denied any form of misconduct as being “baseless and irresponsible”, an IPCMC investigation would be able to support this assertion if true by having access to closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage of the alleged misconduct.
While not questioning the merits of the charges and certainly not condoning any form of terrorism, Proham believes that Sosma is not the answer to counter-terrorism, there are other laws to prosecute a terrorism or terrorism-related offences, such as, among others Offences Against the State under Chapter V1 and Offences Against Terrorism under Chapter V1A of the Penal Code.
Thus, Proham stands with several civil society and calls for the repeal of Sosma, we furthermore urge the government to institute the IPCMC to provide the check and balance and monitor the immensely wide powers the police.
Currently, the IPCMC bill has gone to the Parliament's Special Select Committee for Consideration of Bills. We cannot emphasise enough that the IPCMC bill must be passed at the next sitting and the bill to repeal Sosma be presented to Parliament in 2020.
The writers are the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights' (Proham) secretary-general and chairperson respectively.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.