Landmark Court of Appeal decision on the death of Teoh Beng Hock

8 September 2014

Lawyers For Liberty welcomes the landmark Court of Appeal decision on the death of Teoh Beng Hock on 5 September 2014 which overturned the High Court’s refusal to revise the Magistrate’s inquest “open verdict” finding of the victim who was found dead at the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Shah Alam.
In an unanimous decision delivered in three separate judgments, the judges found the death of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock was a result of unlawful acts of persons unknown, inclusive of MACC officers who were involved in the arrest and investigations of the deceased.
It has been a long and hard struggle for justice and finally after more than 5 years from Teoh Beng Hock’s death, his family members and supporters have been vindicated by the brave judgments of Justices Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, Datuk Mohamad Ariff and Datuk Hamid Sultan.
Death in custody has been a long and prevalent issue in Malaysia. Inquests held are usually a failure which ends in open verdict – with no proper conclusion, no one being held culpable and thus giving the family of victims no closure (for example in the cases of R. Gunasegaran and Francis Udayappan). As in some previous cases, the police and AG’s Chambers have gloss, downplay, cover-up or make outrageous claims over the cause of death.
This landmark Court of Appeal decision highlights some fundamental problems in custodial deaths investigation and serves as a wake-up call that all such cases must be taken seriously. The Royal Commission of the Inquiry into the Death of Teoh Beng Hock underscored this phenomenon – the ‘blue wall of silence,’ the brotherhood among officers involved that prevent any meaningful investigation.
Following the Court of Appeal decision, MACC has pledged full cooperation and a special police team has been set up to re-investigate the case. We do hope this is not merely lip service but a serious attempt at finding the perpetrators and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law and correcting a grave injustice.
In order to restore public faith in the administration of justice, the culture of impunity, cover-up and silence must be replaced by independent and competent police investigation, an AG’s Chambers and judiciary that are genuinely committed to inquire into all extra judicial killings.
We call upon the government, in consultation with the Malaysian Bar and civil society, to set up a proper Coroners’ Court with comprehensive legislation detailing the powers of the Coroner including supervision of all police investigations to ensure that all relevant evidence is collected so as to prevent collusion and lackadaisical investigation.
We reiterate our call 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.
Released by:
Eric Paulsen

Executive Director

Lawyers for Liberty

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