By Annabelle Lee

SUHAKAM INQUIRY | A Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) public inquiry has concluded that Amri Che Mat and Raymond Koh, who vanished in 2016 and 2017 respectively, were victims of enforced disappearance.

The three-member panel also unanimously concluded that the perpetrators were members of the Special Branch from police headquarters Bukit Aman.

“The panel is of the considered view that the enforced disappearance of Amri Che Mat was carried out by agents of the state, namely, the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, within the definition of the first limb of Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED),” Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai read from the inquiry report.

Mah later read a similar conclusion for Koh.

“The direct and circumstantial evidence in Koh’s case proves, on a balance of probabilities, that he was abducted by state agents namely, the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

The ICPPED defines enforced disappearances as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons, or groups of persons, acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state.

In an immediate response, former home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi deniedordering the abductions when he was in office overseeing the police force. 

The police, who did not send any representatives today, have been contacted for comment.

Amri Che Mat

Explaining the basis for their conclusion for Amri’s disappearance, Mah (photo) said the inquiry panel had drawn from the testimony of the social activist’s wife, Norhayati Mohd Ariffin. 

She had testified how she was informed by Perlis Special Branch officer Shamzaini Mohd Daud that a team from the Bukit Aman Special Branch had taken her husband.

Although Shamzaini later denied revealing such information to Norhayati, Mah said the panel accepted Norhayati’s version of events as they had found the police officer’s testimony to be “incongruous” and “full of inconsistencies”. 

The panel accused the police of making a “concerted effort to obscure” references and links to former Special Branch contract worker Saiful Bahari, a key witness in the case who had persistently declined to testify before the panel.

Saiful’s gold-coloured Toyota Vios was seen parked outside Amri’s house for three consecutive days before his disappearance.

The panel also noted lapses in police investigations, including delays in appointing an investigating officer, appointing a junior investigating officer and the refusal to re-classify Amri’s case as an abduction rather than a missing person’s case.

“In general, there was no sense of urgency in the police investigations. In fact, a lackadaisical attitude was adopted by the police into the disappearance of Amri,” Mah read.

Raymond Koh

In Koh’s case, Mah stated that the panel again referred to what Norhayati (photo) said Shamzaini had told her, which is that the same Special Branch team from Bukit Aman which abducted Amri had also abducted Koh.

Furthermore, the panel decided against accepting any evidence from the police linking Koh’s disappearance to a June 2017 shootout in Kedah and a later seizure of items from the shootout victim’s house in Perak.

This was because they had found testimonies on this operation from the police and former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar to be distorted, illogical and “full of inconsistencies and material contradictions”.

Like the Amri case, Mah said the panel was also dissatisfied at the police’s “seriousness” in conducting their investigations into the Koh case.

This included how the police had failed to obtain any CCTV recordings of the abduction, delayed in commencing investigations as well as in taking statements from eyewitnesses.

Similarities between cases

This conclusion that the police were behind the disappearances was further backed by what the panel observed to be similarities between both disappearances.

Both Koh, a Christian pastor accused of proselytising to Muslims, and Amri, an alleged syiah Islam follower and proselytiser, were monitored by religious authorities prior to their disappearance.

The panel also noted the “uncanny similarities” in the modus operandi of how both were abducted – their cars were boxed in by three 4WD vehicles and persons in dark clothing were present.

The presence of Saiful’s gold-coloured Vios in both cases was also noted.

Today’s decision capped off Suhakam’s inquiries into both disappearances. 

The inquiries were chaired by a three-member panel consisting of Mah, who is a former Court of Appeal judge, commercial law expert Aishah Bidin and Islamic law expert Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.