Suhakam defends findings on missing persons, says based on credibility

Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai says its findings based on witness credibility and weight of evidence.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said while its recent inquiry into the disappearances of Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat allowed hearsay as evidence, the findings were made based on the credibility of witnesses.

Responding to remarks by Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday that Suhakam’s conclusion – that the police were responsible for Koh and Amri’s disappearance – was based on hearsay, Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai said it was allowed by law to admit evidence that is inadmissible in civil or criminal proceedings.

“It is not something that we overlooked,” Mah, who chaired the inquiry, told reporters today.

“Hearsay evidence was definitely considered, and we have not breached any of the rules that were applicable when we arrived at our conclusion.”

Mah said the full report on the findings would be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the police and relevant agencies.

Aishah Bidin.

Yesterday, Suhakam said Amri and Koh were victims of enforced disappearance by agents of the state, and named Bukit Aman’s Special Branch unit as culprit.

The conclusion was based on the testimony of Amri’s wife Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, who told the inquiry of information she got from police officer Shamzaini Mohd Daud.

Shamzaini had told her that both her husband and Koh were abducted by the Special Branch.

Mah said even though this could be hearsay, the conclusion was based on the evaluation of the credibility of the witness and the weight of the evidence.

“It’s not just based on her oral recollection, the moment they (Norhayati and Shamzaini) finished talking, she noted this in her notebook, names and events that were mentioned.

“Unless this had come from somebody else, she couldn’t have made this evidence up,” Mah said.

Mah said a special task-force should reopen the cases immediately.

He said that the burden of proof now lay with the police to prove their innocence.

Meanwhile, Suhakam commissioner Aishah Bidin said Norhayati’s testimony was credible as she had mentioned names of Special Branch officers that she would not have known if the meeting with the sergeant had not happened.

“The fact that she had no contact with the Special Branch and so forth, reaffirmed the weightage of the testimony.”

She said the inquiry was tasked to look into the balance of probabilities and to ensure whether or not the state was involved at any point in time.

“We are not a court of law. We do not impose sanctions or punishments. But what we can do is make a set of recommendations.”

Aishah also noted that there were presently no provisions under Malaysian law on enforced disappearances either directly or indirectly by the state.

She suggested law reforms to include enforced disappearances, and for the government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance 2006 (ICPED).

Aishah said the year-old inquiry was the first of its kind with strong allegations against the state.

“If the government doesn’t take it up, I think there would be many questions on that,” she said.

Koh was abducted on Feb 13, 2017, in Petaling Jaya by a group of men in a convoy of cars, while Amri went missing on Nov 24, 2016, after leaving his home.