PETALING JAYA: Beating at the sole of the feet is an unauthorised and illegal form of punishment in Malaysia and an absolute no-no under international norms, according to a criminologist.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Associate Prof P Sundramoorthy said such beatings create some of the most “excruciating and intense pains” without leaving any physical scars as evidence.
“It is one of the most painful tactics used without leaving any marks. If a complainant files a police report about such abuse, he or she may not be able to provide evidence as the skin beneath the feet is thick.
“It is unauthorised by law enforcement agencies around the world except those under dictatorial regimes. In any democratic and civil society, such brute force is not allowed,” he told FMT yesterday.
Although illegal, it is still used by agencies, including spy departments and the military around the world, he said.
Sundramoorthy said this method of inflicting pain is usually applied to get a person to divulge information or to confess.
He added that the beating is normally administered with a thick rubber or plastic hose.
Another form of torture used to extract information is waterboarding, in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face, thereby immobilising the breathing passages and causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning, he said.
Sundramoorthy also said punishments are only allowed to be meted out after a sentence or punishment is announced by the judge in a trial.
Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, an 11-year-old student, died on April 26 after being severely beaten at a religious school in Kota Tinggi, Johor.
It was said that Thaqif was beaten on the soles of his feet. Doctors were forced to amputate both his legs and were about to also amputate one of his arms, when the condition of his heart weakened and he passed away.
A 29-year old assistant warden at the Madrasah Tahfiz Al Jauhar (MTAJ), a private Quran recitation boarding school (tahfiz) in Kota Tinggi, was released on court bond.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar has said this was due to lack of sufficient evidence to charge him under Section 302 of the Penal Code which covers the act of murder punishable by death.
On April 25, Mohd Zahid Mahmood, president of the Federation of National Associations of al-Quran Tahfiz Institutions (Pinta), claimed that the school’s CCTV recordings showed Thaqif was “only” beaten on the sole of one foot.
Meanwhile, Seven Doraisamy, the executive director of Suaram, said the human rights organisation has received several complaints of beatings on the soles by people held in remand.
“This is one of the common (methods) we heard of from those under remand,” he said.
M Visvanathan, a lawyer who deals with deaths in custody, said he heard of such beatings many times.
“It is usually to extract information. The problem is not many come forward to make a police report because of the repercussions. There are no marks on the sole of the feet and due to that it is also hard to prove,” he said.
However, a post-mortem would be able to prove if a person was beaten at the sole as the skin there can be peeled off to reveal any such trauma, he added.