Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Suhakam’s report says the police used disproportionate force during and after the arrest of participants of the Bersih rally for free and fair elections last April 28.
The police used disproportionate force during and after the arrest of participants of the Bersih rally for free and fair elections last April 28, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today.
In releasing its report following a three-man panel’s public inquiry into the rally, Suhakam also noted other violation of human rights, including the freedom of media and freedom of expression.
“The Panel is of the view, based on the testimonies of the witnesses as well as video recordings, that there was use of disproportionate force and misconduct by the police towards the participants,” the panel chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee said when reading out an extract of the report at the Suhakam headquarters here.
The panel pointed to cases where some policemen had assaulted rally go-ers who were being arrested, despite a lack of evidence of resistance by the latter.
Among other things, the panel found that the police did not facilitate a safe dispersal of the massive crowd in the national capital, highlighting the insufficient time given and the continuous firing of chemical-laced water and tear gas on those trying to leave after the rally ended.
The panel said that the police had failed to handle the rally in a way that reflected the spirit of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, saying that their exercise of “restraint” last April 28 was different from their prescribed role in the newly-introduced law to “facilitate” public assemblies.
But it also noted that as the rally took place only five days after PAA 2012 came into force, it would be “too early” for the police to fully make the switch from the old Section 27 of the Police Act.
The panel also presented 25 recommendations in their report, including proposals for the police force to review and make public their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and ensure an orderly and safe dispersal with proper exit routes, besides exploring other methods to sufficiently warn rally participants.
The 29-day public inquiry by Suhakam that started last July 5 and ended this January 10 saw submissions by rally organisers Bersih 2.0, the Bar Council and the police.
A total of 49 witnesses – including 19 members of the public, four members of the media, 18 police officers and eight experts – have testified before the panel headed by Suhakam vice-chairman Khaw, and commissioners Prof Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Datuk Detta Samen.