Bar welcomes changes to enforced disappearance panel, says credibility crucial

The president of the Malaysian Bar Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor also called for the terms of reference of the special task force to be made available publicly.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar has welcomed the changes to the special task force (STF) set up to probe Suhakam’s finding that the Special Branch had a hand in the enforced disappearance of two men.

Its president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, in a statement today, also called for the terms of reference of the STF to be made available publicly.

He said it was very important that people had trust in the panel probing the disappearance of Perlis activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo.

In praising the decision of former police legal unit chief Moktar Mohd Noor to withdraw from the STF, he said Moktar had taken “personal responsibility” to resolve the issue of the credibility of the STF following public complaints that there would be conflicts of interest.

The line-up of the task force, announced last month, had drawn criticism from NGOs and civil society groups which said at least three of the members, including Moktar and its chairman former High Court judge Abd Rahim Uda, should not have been appointed to the STF.

Fareed today welcomed the appointments of Azian Umar from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Roger Tan Kor Mee, a member of the Bar Council and the Malaysian Bar to the STF, which has now been expanded to seven members.

He said: “The withdrawal of Datuk Moktar Mohd Noor and these recent appointments are a step towards restoring public trust in the STF, which must demonstrate its commitment in getting to the bottom of the enforced disappearance cases and to leave no stone unturned in fulfilling its mandate.”

He said accountability was important given the “alarming finding unanimously reached” by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) after a public inquiry that both Amri and Koh “were the victims of enforced disappearance at the hands of the Special Branch”.

Fareed said enforced disappearance was a grave affront to the human conscience and one of the most painful crimes against humanity.

“This serious indictment has manifestly eroded public confidence in our criminal justice system. Justice must be meted out and the perpetrators made to account for their actions.

“Only concrete and clear action – such as the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission as well as an STF that is independent, impartial and fully empowered to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the enforced disappearance cases – will alleviate public fear and anxiety, instil confidence in the safety and security of this country and its people, and gradually restore the stature and standing of the police force.”