KUALA LUMPUR: A movement fighting against what it calls “state violence” is planning to hold a mass rally early next month as part of its campaign for accountability on unexplained deaths linked to the authorities.

The group, endorsed by 34 rights groups, held a public forum last night, officiating what they said would be an intense enterprise to pile pressure on Putrajaya to explain the strings of deaths often involving police shooting or alleged torture.

In its memorandum, the group outlined several reasons behind its protest including the failure to take action and the lack of independent and effective investigations on suspicious deaths by shootings or in custody.

It claimed fatal police shootings have increased 17-fold since 2001 and many of it often in dubious situations but no convictions have been made except for the killing of 15 year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah and in the case of A. Kugan who died under suspicious condition in police custody.

The convictions, however, were deemed political as the government moved to contain public anger only after rights groups and opposition parties put immense pressure on the authorities to respond.

But Irene Fernandez, a renowned activist, said the convictions do not absolve the Barisan Nasional government of impunitive state violence.

Several high profile cases like the death of a former opposition political aide Teoh Beng Hock remained “unsolved” and the probe into the high profile case, including a trial before a royal commission of inquiry, were mired in controversy.

Accepting torture

This included highly incredulous witnesses and also evidences. The independence of those assisting in the RCI were also questionable rights groups charged.

“This reflects the treatment of the people by the government,” Fernandez told the forum where family members of victims were also present.

Fernandez said key problems surrounding the issue is the public acceptance of the “torture culture” especially on those deemed as criminals who are virtually deprived of any rights in accordance to international norms.

Malaysia is one of the seven countries that do not ratify the United Nations convention on torture.

The rights activist said the accepted notion that criminals deserve to be tortured and punished is what directly endorses the culture of torture. It is also what gives the government the power to avoid accountability.

The authorities often claim the shootings and custodial deaths are justified as the victims were dangerous criminals. The group called it a “standard” and paternalistic excuse.

The group plans to gather at the historic Dataran Merdeka and hand over a memorandum to the authorities.

Syed Jaymal Zahiid| November 7, 2012 Free Malaysia Today