Thursday, July 28, 2011
THE BAR COUNCIL’S STATEMENT ON THE REPORT OF THE RCI INTO THE DEATH OF TEOH BENG HOCK
by KOMUNITIKINI on 25 Jul, 2011
There are a number of key points on which the Malaysian Bar agrees with the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Death of Teoh Beng Hock (“RCI”).
We concur with the following findings of the RCI:
(1) That the RCI was unable to accept that the alleged suicide note had been written by Teoh Beng Hock, and that the undue delay by the authorities in tendering the alleged suicide note at the first available opportunity could not be taken as mere carelessness or neglect, and therefore the authenticity of the note could not be trusted;
(2) That Teoh Beng Hock was, at all material times until his untimely death, in the care, custody and control of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) officers;
(3) That Teoh Beng Hock was not released from the care, custody and control of the MACC officers after his statement had been recorded at approximately 3:30 am, and this failure “amounted to cruel conduct and punishment inflicted on purpose”;
(4) That Teoh Beng Hock was subjected to “aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation” and that the recording of his statement was unlawful;
(5) That the majority of the MACC officers exhibited a “total lack of consideration for human sensitivities”, and that the recruitment process of MACC officers should include a “psychological evaluation to assess their suitability for investigative work”;
(6) That most of the MACC officers who were involved in the operations on 15 and 16 July 2009, and who gave evidence as witnesses, were neither truthful nor credible, as they “had the inevitable habit of lying”;
(7) That massive operations launched by MACC Selangor – which were headed by then-Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim – against the Pakatan Rakyat members of the Selangor state assembly were grounded on mere belief of information purportedly received over the telephone, and without proper ground work or verification;
(8) That Hishamuddin Hashim was “arrogant, given to falsehoods, untruthful and uncompromising”, and that he was “just too stubborn [such trait was also displayed when he gave evidence before us] to retreat from his mistake in mounting such a massive operation”;
(9) That not only was Hishamuddin Hashim involved but he also “unleashed his officers to do his bidding in order to get results within that night and morning come hell or high-water”, and that Hishamuddin Hashim should be held responsible for the actions taken by him and his officers that led to Teoh Beng Hock’s death; and
(10) That the Selangor MACC had shown an extreme lack of cooperation with the police in the latter’s attempts to investigate complaints of assault and other offences previously made against its officers.
The Malaysian Bar, however, does not concur with the finding by the RCI that Teoh Beng Hock had committed suicide. Such a finding, in our view, is unsupported by the facts and the evidence.
Contrary to the statement made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, forensic psychiatrist Professor Paul Mullen did not testify that Teoh Beng Hock had a “weak character” that had led to him taking his own life. Professor Mullen also did not conclude that Teoh Beng Hock had committed suicide; rather, his testimony stated that “in [his] opinion, what we learned of Teoh Beng Hock’s personality and behaviour do not suggest any increased risk of suicide”. He further opined that the context of the events that had taken place was not one “which, in [his] experience, leads to suicide in custody”, as he had not been made aware of anything “to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive [Teoh Beng Hock] to conclude his honor had been irreparably tarnished”.
This is in stark contrast to what the Minister reportedly stated during the release of the RCI’s report, namely that Teoh Beng Hock had “truly committed suicide based on his character that had changed from a low-risk group to a high-risk group for suicide after undergoing a continuous and aggressive questioning session”. Professor Mullen’s testimony does not provide the basis for the RCI’s finding of suicide, such as that described in the section titled “conclusion on forensic psychiatric aspects” in the RCI’s report.
It is noted that the RCI found the following:
(1) That the time of death had been between 7:15 am and 11:15 am on 16 July 2009;
(2) That Teoh Beng Hock had not been released at 3:30 am and been left alone sitting on a sofa after his statement had been recorded, as Hishamuddin Hashim had issued a written circular the previous month that “witnesses and visitors in the Selangor MACC office should be accompanied at all times”;
(3) That Teoh Beng Hock had been subjected to a fourth interrogation session after 3:30 am by Hishamuddin Hashim and his officers, which was aggressive and relentless. In addition, the RCI rejected the evidence of MACC officer Raymond Nion that he had seen Teoh Beng Hock lying down unattended on a sofa at approximately 6:00 am;
(4) That the fourth interrogation session was probably between 3:30 am and 7:00 am; and
(5) That the window from which Teoh Beng Hock is said to have fallen out was located conspicuously.
In view of the above, and that there was no evidence whatsoever produced at the RCI hearing of Teoh Beng Hock’s whereabouts or movements after 6:15 am, and the staff of the Selangor MACC office would have begun arriving by 8:00 am, to surmise that Teoh Beng Hock had committed suicide between 7:15 am and 11:15 am requires a leap in logic and an assumption of facts not in evidence.
The Malaysian Bar also notes that the joint expert psychiatric report of Dr Badiah Yahya and Dr Nor Hayati Ali – the experts engaged by MACC who were present during most of the court proceedings and had interviewed Teoh Beng Hock’s family members, housemate and work colleagues – stated:
We did not have any evidence on how the investigation was conducted as there were “no written questions posted to [Teoh Beng Hock]” or audio recording as to ascertain the amount of pressure that he experienced. It is not known whether he had experienced in his mind the effects of being possibly prosecuted on the allegations, whether it would have been devastating for him and/or his organisation. This should require more information on what was said and done in the period taken [sic] into custody until he was found dead.
It is very clear to the Malaysian Bar that full responsibility for Teoh Beng Hock’s death lies squarely and solely on the MACC, and that immediate action must be taken to hold the culpable officers accountable for their behaviour. In this regard, we welcome the reported statement by Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, that “appropriate action would be taken against the officers through the process of law without delay”. The authorities should investigate the relevant MACC officers for possible offences under sections 304 and 304A of the Penal Code, namely for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and for causing the death of TBH by negligence, respectively.
The Malaysian Bar also calls on the Government of Malaysia and MACC to consider:
- offering an unqualified written apology to Teoh Beng Hock’s family, and to the citizens of Malaysia, for his death; and
- making reasonable recompense to Teoh Beng Hock’s family in respect of his death.
The Malaysian Bar extends its heartfelt sympathy once again to Teoh Beng Hock’s family and loved ones.
Lim Chee Wee