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Malaysia: Reject Police Complaints Bill

Proposed Commission Lacks Key Investigative Powers

Malaysian parliament hears the 2021 budget speech in Kuala Lumpur, November 6, 2020.   © 2020 AP Photo

(New York) – The Malaysian parliament should reject the proposed police complaints law and create an independent commission that will ensure real accountability for police abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a joint statement with Amnesty International Malaysia, ARTICLE 19, and CIVICUS. The government said it will put forward the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) bill for a second reading during parliament’s current session.

“The police complaints bill is a huge step backward for police accountability in Malaysia,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The proposed police complaints commission won’t be able to fully investigate police abuse or ensure that crimes by police are fully and fairly prosecuted.”

The proposed Independent Police Complaints Commission would be even weaker than the current complaints body, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the groups said. The new commission would have no powers of search and seizure, limited powers to compel production of evidence, and no ability to hold hearings. It would be precluded from investigating any act provided for in the Inspector-General Standing Orders, which generally govern issues such as the conduct of arrests, the treatment of detainees, and the permissible use of weapons, among others.

Under the proposed law, the IPPC commissioners would also not be allowed to visit police premises, lockups, or places of detention without prior notice to the head of department. Most critically, even in cases where it finds misconduct or abuse, the commission would have no power to discipline or prosecute the offenders. Instead, its powers would be limited to making recommendations to bodies such as the Police Force Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, or other relevant authorities.

Allegations of police corruption and excessive use of force have dogged the Malaysian police for decades, culminating in the establishment of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Force in 2004. In 2005, the commission recommended creating an independent body to investigate complaints of misconduct against the police and take necessary disciplinary action. The EAIC, created in 2009 without the authority to prosecute or impose disciplinary actions for misconduct, has failed to hold the police accountable.

Human Rights Watch extensively documented the systematic impunity enjoyed by Malaysian police who abuse persons in custody in the 2014 report “‘No Answers, No Apology’: Police Abuses and Accountability in Malaysia.”

“The police complaints bill is an insult to all of the families of those who have died in custody from police abuse in Malaysia,” Lakhdhir said. “Parliament should reject this toothless commission and enact a truly independent body with real enforcement power.”

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