Suhakam had no power to investigate criminal cases, says ex-spy chief’s lawyer

Lawyer Shaharudin Ali.

KUALA LUMPUR: A lawyer today suggested that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had overstepped its powers in the public inquiry into the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat.

Shaharudin Ali said this was because their disappearances were criminal cases under investigation by the police and, in the case of Koh, tried in court.

He added that the public inquiry had nothing to do with the infringement of human rights.

“Kidnapping cases are criminal cases usually investigated by the police, not a breach of human rights as slated in Article 5 to Article 13 of the Federal Constitution,” he said in a press conference here.

In January last year, part-time driver Lam Chang Nam was charged in relation to Koh’s disappearance after months of the police saying they had no strong leads on his abductors.

The Suhakam inquiry which began in October 2017 was put on hold for eight months as Lam claimed trial to extorting Koh’s son, Jonathan Koh, for the release of his father.

In May 2018, inquiry chairman Mah Weng Kwai said the subject matter of Lam’s trial was not the same as that of the public inquiry. The inquiry resumed in August.

Shaharudin said resuming the inquiry was in direct violation of Section 12(2) of the Suhakam Act which states that the commission will not inquire into any complaint relating to any allegation of infringement of human rights which is the subject matter of proceedings in court.

“Due to Suhakam’s inquiry, the police feel dejected and frustrated because despite the arrest of a suspect in connection with the kidnapping of Koh, Suhakam continued to pursue without proper understanding of Section 12(2) of the Suhakam Act,” he said.

He added that the police had “lost” in the inquiry as they were unable to respond to the allegations and had no legal counsel.

“The lack of active participation by the Attorney-General’s Chambers was also regrettable,” he said, adding that the final decision was therefore one-sided.

However, he agreed that a review is needed on the effectiveness of the police investigation as they had initially claimed there was no CCTV footage linked to Koh’s disappearance.

“The police need to look into that, but whether that was evidence that they abducted Koh, that is a different matter,” he said.

On April 3, Suhakam declared Koh and Amri victims of “enforced disappearances”, blaming Bukit Aman’s Special Branch for their abductions.

Calls for action have since been made against top police officers including outgoing Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who headed the Special Branch when the abductions took place.

Koh was abducted on Feb 13, 2017, in Petaling Jaya, while Amri went missing on Nov 24, 2016, after leaving his home.

Shaharudin Ali is the lawyer for former director-general of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation Hasanah Abdul Hamid, who entered the limelight after it was revealed that she had written a letter to the US Central Intelligence Agency before the election, seeking support for the Barisan Nasional government.

Hasanah was later charged with criminal breach of trust for allegedly misappropriating RM50 million in government funds.