NGOs urge govt to reject the faulty IPCC bill

The ‘flawed’ bill is set for its 2nd reading in the current Parliament session 

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic by BERNAMA

AMNESTY International Malaysia, ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: Human Rights Watch and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation urged Malaysian lawmakers to reject the flawed Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) bill and swiftly introduce a bill establishing a truly independent oversight mechanism capable of ensuring adequate police oversight. 

The IPCC bill is scheduled for its second reading in this Parliamentary session. 

The bill was first tabled in August 2020 to address the country’s lack of police supervision and accountability. 

According to CIVICUS’ Civic Space Researcher Josef Benedict, the bill fails to address the significant public concerns about police misbehaviour, continuous abuse of power against government critics, and custodial deaths. 

“The IPCC bill that has been tabled is not a step toward police accountability, but in the opposite direction. The bill further erodes the current system of police monitoring offered by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC),” the NGOs said in a statement. 

The first problem with the bill is that, unlike the EAIC, it lacks search and seizure authority. As a result, the bill lacks the necessary measures to enforce accountability.

The second issue is the bill’s limited authority to compel documents and absence of hearing provisions which would prevent commissioners from thoroughly investigating and examining complaints, ensuring greater transparency for victims of abuse and their families, and informing the public and decision-makers about police procedures and policies.

The third concern with the bill is that site inspections must be scheduled in advance. This would mean that IPCC commissioners would be prohibited from visiting police stations, jails or places of incarceration without first obtaining permission from the head of department. 

Fourth, the bill grants only limited investigative authority. The IPCC is not required to conduct an investigation into any act specified in the Inspector-General Standing Orders (Sections 96 and 97 of the Police Act 1967). 

Finally, the bill’s appointment process is inefficient and ambiguous. As with the EAIC, the IPCC’s members will be nominated and removed by the King on the advice of the prime minister, casting doubt on the body’s independence. 

Additionally, appointed members may be police officers. The commission’s CEO is appointed by the home affairs minister, under-mining the idea of independence and impartiality even further. 

“Malaysia needs an independent oversight body that is truly independent and impartial from the state and the police, to avoid a conflict of interests,” Josef wrote. 

“It is long overdue for the Malaysian government to treat the matter of custodial deaths and other police misconduct with the urgency it warrants. The families of those who have died while in police detention deserve answers and justice for their loved ones.” 

Malaysia experienced numerous instances of police abuse and custodial deaths in 2021 alone. 

Mohd Afis Ahmad, 31, a former police volunteer reservist, died in January from blunt force injuries to the head just one day after he was arrested.

In another example, in April, milk merchant A Ganapathy was brought to the intensive care unit following his release from police custody during a 12-day detention period, where he died. He died as a result of complications from injuries to his legs and shoulders, which were believed to have occurred while he was in police custody. 

S Sivabalan, a security guard, died approximately 70 minutes after being apprehended by police in May, purportedly of a heart attack. 

Promising investigations into each of the aforementioned situations appear to have stalled. 

“Malaysia has a long history of police abuse, including the excessive use of force, torture, ill-treatment, harassment, and deaths in custody. Human rights violations by police officers have been documented by both national and international NGOs,” the statement reads. 

Additionally, the statement details how the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act have been utilised to suppress critical voices, including the #Lawan protestors, as well as the arrest and incarceration of human rights defenders, journalists, artists, political opponents and ordinary members of the public who have been critical of the police, government officials or Malaysian royalty, or shared opinions about issues deemed sensitive by the government, such as race and religion.