LETTER | Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled to hear that five Mongolian women, two being alleged victims of rape and/or kidnapping by a police officer, and three other potential witnesses, are all now being detained under Interim Protection Orders as the police believe they are victims of human trafficking.
These five women must be immediately released with the right to stay and work in Malaysia until the rape trial is completed. Too many perpetrators of crime escape simply because the victims and/or witnesses being foreign nationals, are no longer in Malaysia.
It was reported that "a police inspector has been arrested for allegedly raping two Mongolian women aged 20 and 37 years old after he stopped them at a movement control order (MCO) roadblock here" and the "women were stopped at the roadblock at 8pm on Friday and held in the hotel room for more than 24 hours before the police team rescued them" based on a tip-off. The police said that "the case may also be possibly investigated for kidnap and extortion".
Thereafter, it was reported that three "other Mongolian women have been detained after they lodged a police report in relation to the alleged rape of two fellow female nationals by a police inspector". They were purportedly "the ones who raised the alarm over the alleged rape".
It was alleged that on "April 10, the police arrived at the scene and asked the three women to go to a police station to lodge a police report over the incident, which they did and returned home afterwards". Then, on April 11 when the police went to the three women’s house and arrested them.
Interim Protection Orders, Protection Orders, then deportation?
The two alleged victims and the three witnesses, allegedly undocumented foreigners, have now been arrested under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 on the basis that they may be human trafficking victims.
They are currently being detained under an Interim Protection Order, which can last for up to 21 days.
Thereafter, if the Magistrate is satisfied that he/she is a trafficked person and in need of care and protection, a Protection Order for a period not exceeding three months can be made.
After that, for foreign victims of human trafficking, they are handed over to the Immigration Department who will then process and usually deport them, just like any other undocumented migrants.
Law provides option to release, stay in M'sia
However, there is an option under this anti-trafficking law that will allow them their freedom to live and to work legally until the end of the trial.
The Anti-Trafficking In Persons And Anti-Smuggling Of Migrants (Permission To Move Freely And To Work) (Foreign National) Regulations 2016 allows them to not only be released immediately to be able to move around freely but to make it possible for them to work in Malaysia for at least three years.
This would be the best and just solution as this will ensure that these victims and witnesses, will all be available here in Malaysia for the trial of the said police officer – hence giving the authorities no reason for not charging and/or trying the perpetrator in court.
Often, the unavailability of witnesses is one of the reasons why some perpetrators are never even charged, or if already charged, the case is discontinued and the alleged perpetrator is freed.
Best for victims, witnesses to be at the trial
There is a provision for the recording of evidence of a trafficked person, whereby such evidence recorded is admissible in court, and the "weight to be attached to such evidence shall be the same as that of a witness who appears and gives evidence in the course of a proceeding" (Section 52 of the Anti-Trafficking Act). One wonders whether this will also apply to rape cases, and not just for anti-trafficking crimes.
However, such use of pre-recorded statements undermines the accused person’s right to a fair trial, as he/she would be denied the right to question the witnesses in court. The court will also be denied the opportunity of seeing and accessing the credibility of the witness.
To ensure justice is done, it is always important and best for the alleged victim/s and witnesses to be present personally in court to give evidence in court during the trial.
No reason to delay trial
In this case, there is really no reason to not speedily charge the suspect police officer, and conduct the trial speedily when all the Mongolian victims and witnesses are still in Malaysia.
The arresting of the alleged victims and taking them not to the police station but some other place during the MCO period may be a crime.
Evidence of rape and the crime scene should have already all been collected as reported in the media.
The witnesses are available, and what they saw and heard are still fresh in their mind. The trial could be expedited, and it could be over even in a couple of weeks.
The Star had reported on April 16 that the "police have applied to extend a remand order against an inspector over rape allegation", but Madpet fails to see the reason or justification for the procrastination.
He should be charged and the trial out to be commenced and ended speedily when the victims and relevant witnesses are still here in Malaysia. This would be just when it comes to a situation when the victims and/or witnesses are foreign nationals, who may want to return home as soon as possible.
Poor track record of charging and trying Police in court
In the past, Malaysia sadly has a poor track record of prosecuting and charging police officers and other enforcement officers in court, even in cases after Royal Commission of Inquiries, inquiries by Suhakam (Malaysian National Human Rights Commission) and Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) have found wrongdoings and/or even recommended prosecution.
This happened, amongst others, in the Bright Sparklers case, enforced disappearance cases of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat, and in the death in police custody cases of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur and N Dharmendran.
Reforms needed for cases where victims are foreigners
In Hong Kong, migrant worker victims who have a claim or a case are provided housing and board until the end of their cases to ensure justice is done.
Malaysia should also have a similar law to ensure the perpetrators of crime against and violators of rights of migrants do not escape unpunished simply because these migrants have been deported and/or are no longer in Malaysia.
Victims, be they Malaysians or foreign nationals, deserve justice, there:
- Madpet calls for the speedy prosecution, charging and trial of the suspected police officer in court.
- Madpet calls for the immediate release of the two Mongolian women victims and the three Mongolian women witnesses from detention, and that they are immediately released and also allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until the speedy completion the rape/kidnapping trial.
- Madpet calls for no special treatment to be accorded to police officers and/or other enforcement officers who broke the law, and that they should all be charged and tried in open court and not simply some internal disciplinary procedure.
- Madpet also calls for speedy trials and/or adjudication when the victims and/or witnesses are foreign nationals while facilitating and supporting their stay in Malaysia pending completion of trials, to ensure that perpetrators of crime and/or violators of rights do not escape justice because of unavailability of witnesses and/or victims in Malaysia.
CHARLES HECTOR represents Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (Madpet).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.