Live bullet inquiry cancellation flawed

Khairil Zhafri | Dec 18, 07 3:10pm

Elections reform group Bersih criticised Suhakam’s decision to call off its open inquiry into the use of live bullets during the riot in Batu Burok, Kuala Terengganu.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia has called off the open inquiry on the grounds of legality last week.
Suhakam Act 1999 provides that Suhakam shall not inquire into any allegation of human rights violations where a case is still pending in court. As such it stated that it was powerless to act since a court case was pending on a similar matter whereby two victims of live bullet shooting were charged for causing injury to a police officer last week.
Bersih spokeperson Sivarasa Rasiah, in a press statement, said the commission’s open inquiry panel chairperson Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s interpretation of the Act “flawed and goes completely against the spirit of protecting and promoting human rights”.
Sivarasa explained that Suhakam was not allowed to inquire into a complaint of human rights violation only if the same case of human rights violation has been brought to court.
In the case of Batu Burok incident, the complaint on the shooting of unarmed protesters by the police was different from court charges of the duo for causing injury.
Section 12 of Suhakam Act 1999, he said, when properly understood was intended to “avoid a victim of human rights violation taking his complaint to court and then asking (Suhakam) to do an inquiry.”
Encouraging a culture of impunity
The group called Suhakam to revert its decision and proceed with the open inquiry.
Suhakam, according to Bersih, was sending the wrong message to the police and enforcement authorities when calling off the inquiry as it “will encourage more violations and a culture of impunity.”
Last September, a policeman allegedly fired live bullets into a crowd of protesters at about 11.40pm near Hotel Permai Inn in Jalan Sultan Mahmud. The police were in the midst of dispersing the crowd who had gathered for a Bersih ceramah.
During the incident, Muhammad Azman Abdul Aziz, 21, and Suwandi Abdul Ghani, 38, were shot in the chest and neck respectively. On Dec 9, the two were charged at Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court for causing injury to policeman Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Omar.
Wan Abdul Aziz was described as having fired at the duo in self-defence after a mob descended on him.
Suhakam had earlier refused to initiate a probe, but recanted later after public pressure mounted, only to have it cancelled due to the court case.