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To Arbitrary Abduction, Disappearance and Police Indifference

The 30th of August is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

On this day, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) remind the government that the perpetrators of the crime of enforced disappearance conducted against Amri Che Mat, Raymond Koh, Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu remain unidentified and what happened to the foursome remains veiled in secrecy.

The crime of enforced disappearance is defined under Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State.”

Three exhaustive investigations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) have resoundingly concluded that Amri, Raymond, Joshua and Ruth are victims of the crime of enforced disappearance. SUHAKAM announced its conclusions in April 2019 (Raymond and Amri) and in April 2022 (Joshua and Ruth). Responding to public clamour, in May 2019, the previous government established a 7-member taskforce.

According to news reports, the taskforce submitted its report to the government at the end of February 2019. Also according to news reports, the government has sealed the report “in the interest of national security” - presumably because it contains evidence of unsavoury aspects of policing in Malaysia.

The victims’ families are being denied knowledge of the truth about what happened to their loved ones. They have no closure. They are suspended in a state of unknowing. The struggle of the families for justice has been long and arduous, with much involvement of civil society. Public clamour caused SUHAKAM to mount its investigations. Public clamour caused the government to form the special taskforce. Public clamour continues with outrage that the report of the taskforce has not led to, and is not leading to reforms and prosecutions. There is also mounting public clamour over the fact that more than four months after SUHAKAM published its findings in the case of Joshua and Ruth, neither the police nor the government have uttered even a squeak about what they will do in response.

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances falls on the day before Malaysia’s national independence day. The 31st August is meant to serve as an annual day of rejoicing over the gaining of autonomy and freedom from British rule. However, the eve of the 31st is now an annual day of weeping over the implicit acceptance by the government of Malaysia that enforced disappearance is not a crime.

The family and friends of the victims are forced to experience the mental anguish of not knowing whether their loved one is still alive and to suffer continuous, throbbing anxiety over the whereabouts and physical and mental condition of their loved ones.

The concept of Keluarga Malaysia which the Prime Minister is promoting is but a sham for as long as the perpetrators of these serious crimes are not held accountable and the government fails to uphold the right to truth, justice, reparations and reforms.

We urge the government to release the findings of the task force report. We also urge the government to develop and publish an action plan, with scheduled dates to publicly inform the public about progress in implementing the recommendations of SUHAKAM and of the taskforce. The plan should include steps to:

  • Establish institutional and standard operating measures for investigating missing persons, abductions and disappearances

  • Implement reviews and actions to assure all authorities respect the right of freedom of religion of every person under Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution

  • Begin the process of ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED).

On this important day, CAGED and SUARAM reiterate our commitment to stand in solidarity with victims and the families of enforced disappearances and to continue our campaigns and advocacy to eliminate all forms of enforced disappearance in Malaysia.

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