BERSIH welcomes Suhakam’s “better-late-than-never” inquiry

Press Release
16 November 2007
BERSIH welcomes SUHAKAM’s “better-late-than-never” decision to conduct a public inquiry on the Batu Buruk incident, specifically on whether the use of live bullets against protesters is justified.

In fact, just a day before the People’s Gathering, BERSIH had sent a delegation on the 9 November 2007 to hand over a second protest note to SUHAKAM urging it to hold a public inquiry, citing the reason that the ongoing legal investigation was not focused on the shooting of the two participants.
The first call for an inquiry by BERSIH was in the form of a memorandum handed to SUHAKAM on 13 September 2007. A protest note was delivered on 12 October 2007 against Suhakam’s initial decision not to conduct an inquiry.
BERSIH is also relieved to know that SUHAKAM, according to Commissioner Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, has disassociated the Commission from the statement made by Datuk Siva Subramaniam on the rally. Datuk Siva Subramaniam had claimed that the police did not use violence to control the crowd and had acted professionally on the matter.
The Malaysiakini report published today on the innocent bystander whose kneecap was crushed by a policeman, even though he was lying face first on the ground, should be a good enough reason for Siva to retract his statement and denounce the police actions as brutal, unprovoked and unnecessary.
Shafee, however, did not reveal SUHAKAM’s stand. BERSIH urges SUHAKAM to be steadfast in its role as custodian of human rights in Malaysia by reiterating what it has said in the past, namely that “the basic human right to freedom of peaceful assembly must be given due recognition and can only be restricted by law enacted for the purpose of preserving national security or public order” and “peaceful assemblies are a healthy way for members of civil society to express dissatisfaction over matters that affect their lives” (Freedom Of Assembly: A Report by SUHAKAM, 2001).
BERSIH is concerned about the narrow terms of reference for the inquiry on the Batu Buruk incident. SUHAKAM must not sidestep the question of freedom of assembly in its inquiry.
The terms of reference for the panel are:
• To inquire on the circumstances of the situation and the justifiability of the usage and discharge of live ammunition into the crowd by police personnel where person or persons were consequently injured and whether it is a violation of human rights.
• If violation of human rights occurred, to determine:

  1. Which person or persons or agency was or were responsible?
  2. How did such violation come about and the nature of the violation?
  3. What administrative directives and procedures or arrangements, if any, could have contributed to the violation?
  4. What measures should be recommended to be taken to ensure that such violation does not recur in future?

BERSIH hopes that SUHAKAM will carry out its inquiry on the Batu Buruk incident as thoroughly as possible, and calls on witnesses to come forward and cooperate with SUHAKAM in its investigation.