SUARAM and BERSIH 2.0 strongly condemn the police’s violent behaviour, excessive use of force and ill-treatment against those who demonstrated at the Customs Department office in Kelana Jaya. The police had acted unconstitutionally when they did not informed the detainees of the grounds of their arrest. Instead, they resorted to inhumane and forceful behaviour. Further, the decision to deny the detainees of legal representative is unacceptable and goes against the every known legal principle guarding rights to liberty internationally and nationally.
Refusal of access to lawyers
Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution provides that “where a person is arrested he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.” This very core principle in our Federal Constitution guarding our liberty was blatantly ignored by the police and the lawyers’ request to meet the detainees was casually dismissed by police with nonsensical and unacceptable answer – “tak ada arahan (no instruction was given).” In their attempt to get access to the detainees, lawyers were forcefully pushed out by the police. The detainees were only allowed access to lawyer 5 minutes before the remand hearing on 24 March 2015 morning, more than 16 hours after the arrest.
The principle of right to legal practitioner is long carved in stone and has been the past practise in the country. The authorities must remember that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the police’s blatant disregard of Article 5(3) is a severe violations of the civil liberties of Malaysians.
Detainees not informed of grounds of arrest
The detainees arrested were given absolutely no explanation of the arrest even when the detainees repetitively asked for it. They only found out about the grounds of arrest and investigation the next day during the remand process.
Further, Khalid Ismath was detained by police on 23 March 2015 at 11.00 am and was only released the next day at 7.00 pm, an excess of 8 hours than what was lawfully permitted. Article 5(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that “where a person is arrested and not released he shall without unreasonable delay, and in any case within twenty-four hours be produced before a magistrate and shall not be further detained in custody without the magistrate’s authority.”
The police behaviour amounts to arbitrary arrest and detention. It clearly contradicts Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and the core principle of rule of law established to ensure democracy. It is akin to the characteristic of dictatorships and police states which we all so despise. The right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention is a very fundamental principle recognised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely in Article 3 that “[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and in Article 9 that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations, has the obligation to prevent the commission of such grave human rights violation.
Police’s extrajudicial use of force
It is extremely unacceptable and disappointing that the police Light Strike Force personnel has resort to extrajudicial physical violence and extreme force against the defenceless protestors. Informants had claimed that the detainees were forcefully pushed and beaten during the arrest. The abusive behaviour went on even after the police had secure the arrest – some of the detainees’ face were covered with clothes and beaten on the face by the police. In addition, the female detainees had claimed that they were denied access to water when asked for it. The police swiftly dismissed their request with an unacceptable answer – “tak ada budget (no budget).”
SUARAM and BERSIH are extremely appalled by such sickening abuse of power by the police and gross violation of the people’s rights to liberty as guaranteed in the constitution. This incident raises yet again the question of police accountability and further heightens public mistrust of the police force. We reiterate the public demand for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). The government and the police cannot act without accountability and transparency for this is a democratic country and the people’s demand should always come first. Those who participate in the rally are not criminals, they are people with genuine concern of the future of the country and the welfare of the people, especially those who will be seriously affected by the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. It is ashamed that the government has chosen to resort to such disgraceful method in addressing the issue that most Malaysians so concerned and worried about.
SUARAM and BERSIH 2.0 hereby demands the authorities to:
1. Immediately release all 25 detainees from Shah Alam detention centre and cease investigation against all those involved in the demonstration.
2. Conduct investigation against police officers who broken and violated the standard operation procedure in handling public gatherings and those who committed unlawful extrajudicial use of force; and to hold the police accountable.
3. Address the issue of systematic abuse of power by police by establishing an independent oversight mechanism to investigate police malfeasance and take necessary disciplinary measures.
Maria Chin Abdullah
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)