KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — The police should look to the more “modern” Serious Organised Crimes Agency (SOCA) used by the UK to bring down criminals, lobby group Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) said today as pressure mounts on the authorities to check the crime rate.
The group voiced its fears that the “regressive and archaic” Prevention of Crime Act 1959, which the police started using this week in its massive crackdown on criminals, could result in power abuse.
LFL said the law effectively allows detention without trial with its remand period of up to 72 days, which it said was “excessive and unnecessary”.
Putrajaya should instead adopt “modern and progressive” crime-fighting measures used by other countries that still respect human rights, LFL said, citing the UK’s SOCA as an example.
“SOCA was set up to tackle organised crime in a far more effective and modern manner.
“The idea is to use both traditional and sophisticated methods by using combined powers of various agencies — the police, Customs, immigration and other enforcement authorities,” LFL said in a statement signed by its adviser Eric Paulsen.
“This include using first-class intelligence and other methods to find out and hit such organised criminals where it hurts most, i.e. by going after their properties, businesses, bank accounts and financial resources,” it added.
LFL noted that the country’s existing laws, including the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), were “sufficient” to deal with criminals.
It pointed out that police could still detain an individual for up to 14 days under the CPC, which it said is “still among the longest in the world”.
Earlier in the same statement, LFL voiced concern over a few features of the Prevention of Crime Act which it suggested could affect the rights of suspects.
It pointed out that after the suspects’ remand for police investigations, an inquiry could cause them to be subjected to further restrictions of their freedom.
“At the end of the remand period and upon a non-judicial inquiry, the suspects involved in organised crimes and secret societies and persistent offenders can be registered and subjected to serious restrictions including police supervision up to five years which can be renewed indefinitely.”
But it expressed concern that the suspects would not get an impartial hearing, pointing out that the inquiry will not be done in a court.
“Further, the inquiry process will be done by the Home Ministry which will appoint the inquiry officers and relevant staff. It is also unclear as to how or where the inquiry will be held and whether the suspects have a right to appoint legal counsel to participate.
“The inquiry with the vague and vast powers is reminiscent of the infamously incompetent Advisory Board which had ‘reviewed’ detention under the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance but in most cases merely agreed with the Home Ministry,” it said.
Following an alarming rise in shootings and gun violence, police on Tuesday launched a nationwide crackdown dubbed “Ops Cantas” in a bid to curtail the apparent surge.
The operation led to the arrests of nearly 700 individuals up to Tuesday, as the police dusted off the Prevention of Crime Act that allows for arrest without warrants and detention without trial in the efforts to rein in what they allege to be an increase in gangland activity following the repeal of the Emergency Ordinance in 2011.
By Ida Lim, Malay Mail Online,