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M'sian Bar backs Suhakam's call to reopen probe on Amri, Koh's disappearance

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The Malaysian Bar has backed the Human Rights Commission's (Suhakam) call for investigations to be reopened into the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat, which an inquiry by the commission has said is enforced disappearance.

In a statement today, Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor also urged the government to take with "utmost seriousness", the Suhakam inquiry panel's findings, and implement the recommendations put forward, for the sake of finding out the truth.

"The Malaysian Bar is appalled that the finding unanimously reached by the Suhakam panel members, that both Koh and Amri were victims of enforced disappearance at the hands of the Special Branch of the Malaysian police.

"The decision is a damning indictment of the impunity exercised by this particular section of the police (Special Branch), which is privileged and protected from scrutiny and accountability," said Abdul Fareed (below).

Suhakam's findings also reveal the various "lies" and contradictory statements issued by members of the police force, including by former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar, to try and shift the blame from the police, he added.

"More worrying still was the thread of actual testimony and circumstantial evidence that interwove this operation by the Special Branch with the abuse of power by certain individuals within the state Islamic religious authorities, to seek to highlight the threat of Shia Islam.

"The Malaysian Bar thus wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of the Inquiry Panel, principally the establishment of a Special Task Force to reclassify, reopen and reinvestigate the disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh, and especially to look into police involvement in their disappearances. In our view, such a Special Task Force must be given every power to investigate this matter, without let or hindrance."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Malaysia executive-director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu (below) said the government has the responsibility to expeditiously and impartially investigate Suhakam's findings, following yesterday's reveal.

"Victims of enforced disappearance are people who have literally disappeared from their loved ones and their community. They go missing when state officials, or someone acting with state consent, grabs them from the street or from their homes and then deny it or refuse to say where they are. 

"Sometimes disappearances may be committed by armed non-state actors, like armed opposition groups. And it is always a crime under international law.

"Enforced disappearance is frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity and fear it generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects communities and society as a whole," she said.

Thus, the Government has a responsibility to expeditiously and impartially investigate Suhakam’s findings into the enforced disappearances of Koh and Amri, she added.

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