Bukit Aman, 7 September 2012
The quest for justice for the recent police shooting of Dinesh Darmesena, 26, in Ampang continues due to the shocking failure by the Police to take seriously the allegation that the deceased was killed while unarmed and in cold blood.
We are gravely concerned over the shooting of the deceased during the early hours of Tuesday, on 21 August 2012 in Ampang. Although the victim did not have any criminal record, the police had been quick to claim the deceased was part of a gang known as “Geng Viva Nanda” that were involved in a gang fight and had tried to attack the police with weapons and the police had shot him in self-defense.
We find this story by the police to be quite unbelievable. According to eye witnesses who were at the scene, they saw unmarked cars which blocked the car that Dinesh was travelling and a few men in plain clothes appeared and started shooting indiscriminately at the car and when Dinesh tried to flee, he was gunned down.
Why was it necessary to shoot him dead? Were any warning shots fired?
We note that there is disturbing similarity in the justification given out by police after almost every fatal police shooting in recent memory. In almost all cases, police claimed that the suspects are wanted criminals who attempted to attack police and the police opened fire killing all instantly. Subsequent to the shooting, police claimed to have discovered weapons in their vehicle and accused the dead of being involved in all sorts of crime.
Unlike many other cases where everyone were killed and could not rebut the version given by the police, in this case, several witnesses had come forward to describe what had actually happened.
Even after the shocking statistics of fatal police shootings that have risen 17 fold since 2001 was revealed in November 2010, the police continue to act in blatant lawlessness as reflected in their failure to commence independent and effective investigations in response to the numerous police reports lodged against them for fatal shootings. No policemen have been charged and convicted for any killings except for the case of 15-year-old Aminulrasyid after huge public outcry.
The police failure to independently and effectively investigate the shooting demonstrates clearly the culture of impunity and lawlessness that is deeply woven into the practice of the Malaysian police force. This deafening silence poses irreversible threat to the lives and safety of the general public who are vulnerable to being victims of police shooting as a result of uninvestigated misuse of power which goes unpunished.
While we understand the police have an important and onerous job to prevent and combat crime, the police must understand that the wide powers to use firearms to apprehend suspects cannot be abused and used arbitrarily. As a professional police force, they should be guided by the law and legal processes in the country and not act with impunity. The police force must act in compliance with legal procedures and guidelines on discharge of firearms which can be gathered from the international policing norms that require that firearms only be discharged to protect life and that clear warnings be given with adequate time to comply.
Given the prevailing situation on fatal police shootings, this is unfortunately symptomatic of the police’s inability to act professionally as a police force that can work within a modern criminal justice system and not resort to arbitrary use of firearms that do not require any real police work and diligence. The police should instead strive to be a modern and professional force that conform to international standards and best practices and not regress to wrongful practices that have caused the public to lose so much confidence with the police force.
The aggressive and unlawful response of the police is a reflection of the culture of impunity, general arrogance and lack of respect for international policing norms, the rule of law and other legal procedures. This is not an isolated incident but a continuation of a long standing series of acts by the police that showed their contempt for the rights of the people that have resulted in gross abuse of police powers leading to brutality.
The police cannot be permitted to continue to operate in an environment of impunity but as this tragic episode has explicitly illustrated, the police have just sent a strong message that they can act as they please with no regard to the rule of law, police professionalism, the law and procedure governing their conduct.
The Inspector General of Police must:
- Independently investigate the fatal police shooting of Dinesh and classify the case as homicide and not relegate the matter into a mere Coroner’s Inquest which is extremely problematic and ineffective;
- Take stern action, including immediate arrest and work suspension leading to the criminal prosecution and disciplinary action of the policemen who fired the shots and those who covered up the incident;
- Stop the abusive and arbitrary practice of discharge of firearms;
- Make public the Inspector General Standing Order on police guidelines on discharge of firearms;
- Support the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to function as an independent, external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to make the police accountable for their conduct;
- Support human rights education and training programmes, with a view to changing the attitudes and methods of law enforcement personnel.