16 October 2013
Lawyers for Liberty is extremely concerned with the growing public perception that the police readiness to execute a suspect will create a safer environment.
Executing a suspect without a judicial process or a valid legal defence is extra-judicial killing, is unlawful, bypasses the legal process and is no different from a mob killing.
It is easy to perceive the killing of a suspect as something to be applauded, because the suspect is often portrayed as a hardcore, guilty criminal, deserving of nothing less than the death penalty.
Wong Chun Wai’s appalling and childish article in the Star last Sunday painted a picture of armed and dangerous criminals, using this image to justify the ‘shoot first’ policy and demanded the return of Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood-style of summary justice.
The Federal Constitution as well as criminal law prohibit the taking of life of another human being unless it is done so according to the law.
Although Lawyers for Liberty is against the death penalty, under Malaysian law, one’s life can only be taken if it is done accordance to due process of the law, with a charge, a fair trial and if one has committed a crime that is punishable by death.
Executing suspects, guilty or otherwise cannot escape the fact that this action is criminal and is equally condemned by the state.
The indiscriminate and excessive use of firearms on a ‘suspect’ can and has produced unjust outcomes which cannot be reversed or compensated.
Moreover, the standard operating procedure of the police’s usage of arms has always been kept secret. Are we certain it is in line with the Federal Constitution and the law, therefore it doesn’t encourage extra-judicial killings?
The right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence are all in place because the criminal justice system is man-made. A man-made system is imperfect and no person should ever be given the right to take away a life unless guilt is founded with certainty before a court of law.
Executing a ‘suspect’ provides no room for human error, because once a human life is lost, it cannot be reversed. The police have made mistakes in recognizing suspects and have fatally shot and wounded innocent civilians.
Women and children are not spared from the danger of misidentification. The case of Aminulrasyid, an innocent 15-year-old boy is a prime example of how dangerous this ‘shoot first’ policy can be.
Adopting this stance of ‘shooting first’ does not make Malaysia any safer. In fact, it will make Malaysia a dangerous place, because any person, a man, woman or child could be mistaken as a suspect and the police are given the license to open fire on ‘mere suspicion’.
Lawyers for Liberty therefore calls on the police not to sidestep the entire criminal justice process and takes on the role of the judge, jury and executioner. Instead, the police must act according to established legal and policing standards that only allow the use of deadly force when absolutely necessary e.g. in situation of self-defence and when other means have been tried and failed.
Legal/ Campaign Coordinator
Lawyers for Liberty
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