Press Statement

Acquittal in N. Dhamendran’s murder case reaffirms “killing fields” lock-up

12 December 2014

Lawyers for Liberty is outraged at the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision today to acquit the four policemen Inspector Hare Krishna, Sergeant Jaffri Jaafar, Corporal Mohd Nahar and Corporal Mohd Haswadi Zamri who were charged for the murder of N. Dhamendran who was found dead at the Ibu Pejabat Polis Kontijen Kuala Lumpur on 21 May 2013.


This acquittal is symptomatic of the larger problem of law enforcement impunity and the state’s reluctance to hold law enforcement personnel accountable for unlawful killings that is turning our police lock-ups into “killing fields” where a suspect can die while in custody and there will be no perpetrators, no repercussion and no redress.


Very few police personnel are ever charged for deaths in custody or fatal shootings despite the frequency of such cases. We have seen the acquittal of Aminulrasyid’s shooter and the failure to prosecute many custodial deaths including Teoh Beng Hock, C. Sugumar, Karuna Nithi and A. Kugan.


Judge Kamarddin Hashim acquitted the four policemen on the basis that the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence, failure to prove motive for the murder and the inconsistency of the prosecution’s case with the medical report.


Such a finding would lead us to the conclusion that the prosecution was done haphazardly, that the police had failed to properly investigate the case and there was lack of cooperation from police witnesses, leading to collusion or cover up (a phenomenon referred to as the “blue wall of silence” by the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the death of Teoh Beng Hock).


The post-mortem showed N. Dhamendran was a healthy man with no significant natural disease in his body that could have contributed to his death. He was brutally beaten to death, in all likelihood while handcuffed as there was no defensive wound and instead, there were handcuff marks. Each of his ears was also stapled. The report further stated that “the overall pattern of these injuries is neither self-inflicted nor accidental in nature.” The cause of death was an unequivocal “diffuse soft tissue injuries due to multiple blunt force trauma.”


We wish to remind the authorities of the Court of Appeal’s strong rebuke in A.Kugan’s family civil suit judgment against the police that: “Remand prisoners are innocent until convicted in a court of law and like other citizens they are entitled to their basic human rights during their lawful detention…Custodial death cannot and should not happen in this country. There should be zero tolerance to any custodial death in all the remand centers in the country.”


Lawyers for Liberty calls on the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police to take more seriously issues that involve state violence especially custodial death and police shooting. They must be particularly vigilant against the rampant abuse of police powers that sidesteps the criminal justice process and takes on the role of judge, jury and executioner.


We reiterate our calls for the government to implement the recommendation of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police (May 2005), for the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to function as an independent and external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel.


Eric Paulsen

Executive Director

Lawyers for Liberty


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