LFL calls for RCI on mass graves after NST report of police cover-ups

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PETALING JAYA: The government must form a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) following a report by the New Straits Times (NST) today claiming massive cover-ups by police on the discovery of mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis, two years ago, rights lawyers say.

“This extensive NST report confirms the long-held suspicion of local authorities’ collusion, and most damning of all, the subsequent whitewash investigation and perfunctory prosecution of a few foreigners,” Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said in a statement.

“In light of the exposé, serious questions must be asked as to why there was such an extensive cover-up and who the authorities were trying to protect.”

NST today reported that a two-year investigation by its team of journalists revealed that authorities had delayed the announcement of the discovery of the mass graves by some four months.

It said police had also cleared the campsite where the mass graves were discovered, destroying potential evidence at the crime scenes.

The discovery of the mass graves with 130 bodies of human trafficking victims was first announced in May 2015 by then inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar.

This followed the discovery of similar graves in Thailand, which led Thai police to launch a massive crackdown on human trafficking networks.

But NST said the Malaysian police had already known about the mass graves at the campsite in a dense part of a jungle on the Thailand-Malaysian borders as early as January 2015.

“Why did the police order the destruction of these camps, which were potential crime scenes, before they could be processed by forensics personnel?” the paper asked.

LFL said the report was not surprising, and that the case had been poorly investigated in Malaysia, in contrast to Thailand which had prosecuted and convicted 62 persons including senior army officers.

“This report further affirms what civil society has been saying all along, that the government is not genuine in tackling human trafficking and is merely paying lip service and doing the very minimum in order to achieve better human rights ranking,” said LFL executive director Eric Paulsen.

“Despite credible reports of human trafficking, the Malaysian authorities have long denied the existence of such activities.”

He said the government must set up a “credible” RCI and “tackle this modern-day scourge of human trafficking”.

“In order to do so, the government must demonstrate political will to act and hold accountable all those involved, regardless of rank, status or connection,” said Paulsen, who also questioned the US State Department’s upgrade of Malaysia’s human trafficking ranking to Tier 2.

“Malaysia should be returned to Tier 3, ie. the lowest ranking for governments that do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so,” he added.