Ex-CJ’s rights record questioned ahead of Wang Kelian probe

Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria has been tasked with leading the royal commission of inquiry into the mass graves at Wang Kelian. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has voiced concern over the appointment of former chief justice Arifin Zakaria to lead the inquiry into the issue of human trafficking and the mass graves found in Wang Kelian, Perlis, three years ago.

LFL adviser N Surendran said Arifin had made several decisions during his tenure as chief justice which received strong criticism from constitutional and human rights lawyers, as well as opposition leaders at the time.

“It is important for Arifin to now state his stand over these past decisions and actions that are a cause of public concern in light of this appointment,” he said in a statement.

Arifin served as chief justice for five years before stepping down on March 31, 2017.

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who announced Arifin’s appointment to lead the royal commission of inquiry (RCI), said he would be assisted by former inspector-general of police Norian Mai and six other members.

They will be given six months to look into the human trafficking camps and mass graves discovered in Wang Kelian in May 2015.

Surendran said Arifin’s track record included his decision in favour of Barisan Nasional’s Zambry Abdul Kadir in the Perak menteri besar crisis, and his role in leading the Federal Court bench which upheld the validity of the Sedition Act 1948 in the case of law professor Azmi Sharom.

He also cited Arifin’s role in upholding the sodomy conviction of PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim, and his advice to the king that Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin be appointed as additional judges in the Federal Court.

“It is clear that there are valid concerns about the former chief justice’s track record in human rights and constitutionalism,” he said.

“The Wang Kelian RCI is of great importance as it deals with mass graves and cross-border human trafficking of the most horrific nature. It is essential that there is absolute confidence in the tribunal for it to effectively perform its mandate.”