Merdeka eve “annual day of weeping” since enforced disappearance still not a crime

TODAY is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. 

On this day, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) remind the Government that the perpetrators of the enforced disappearances of Amri Che Mat, Raymond Koh, Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu remain unidentified and what happened to these four individuals remains veiled in secrecy. 

The crime of enforced disappearance is defined under Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance 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.” 

Three exhaustive investigations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) have resoundingly concluded that Amri, Raymond, Joshua and Ruth are victims of the crime of enforced disappearance. SUHAKAM announced its conclusions in April 2019 (for Raymond and Amri) and in April 2022 (Joshua and Ruth).  

From left: Amri Che Mat and Raymond Koh (Photo credit: FMT)

In responding to public clamour, the previous Government established a seven-member task force in May 2019 to investigate SUHAKAM’s findings. According to news reports, the task force submitted its report to the Government at the end of February 2019.   

However, the Government has reportedly sealed the report “in the interest of national security”, presumably because it contains evidence of unsavoury aspects of policing in Malaysia.  

The victims’ families are being denied knowledge of the truth about what happened to their loved ones. They have no closure. They are suspended in a state of unknowing.  

The struggle of the families for justice has been long and arduous, with much involvement from civil society.  

“Mounting public clamour” 

Public clamour caused SUHAKAM to mount its investigations. Public clamour caused the Government to form a special task force. And public clamour continues with outrage that the report of the task force has not led to, and is not leading to reforms and prosecutions.   

There is also mounting public clamour over the fact that more than four months after SUHAKAM published its findings in the case of Joshua and Ruth, neither the police nor the Government has uttered even a squeak about what they will do in response. 

Hilmy Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth (Photo credit: Daily Express)

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances falls on the day before Malaysia’s national independence day.

Aug 31 is meant to serve as an annual day of rejoicing over the gaining of autonomy and freedom from British rule. However, the eve of the day is now an annual day of weeping over the implicit acceptance by the Government that enforced disappearances are not a crime.  

The family and friends of the victims are forced to experience the mental anguish of not knowing whether their loved one is still alive, and suffer continuous, throbbing anxiety over the whereabouts and physical and mental condition of their loved ones. 

Family members of Amri Che Mat and Raymond Koh (Photo credit: Yahoo News)

The concept of
Keluarga Malaysia that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is promoting is nothing but a sham for as long as the perpetrators of these serious crimes are not held accountable and the Government fails to uphold the right to truth, justice, reparations and reforms.  

We urge the Government to release the findings of the task force report. We also urge the Government to develop and publish an action plan, with scheduled dates, to publicly inform the public about progress in implementing the recommendations of SUHAKAM and of the task force.  

The plan should include steps to: 

  • Establish institutional and standard operating measures for investigating missing persons, abductions and disappearances 
  • Implement reviews and actions to assure all authorities respect the right of freedom of religion of every person under Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution 
  • Begin the process of ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). 

On this important day, CAGED and SUARAM reiterate our commitment to stand in solidarity with victims and the families of enforced disappearances and continue our campaigns and advocacy to eliminate all forms of enforced disappearance in Malaysia. – Aug 30, 2022 


Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) is a human rights non-governmental organisation that focuses on possible cases of enforced disappearances, while Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is a nonprofit that defends and supports the need for human rights.  

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia. 


Main photo credit: FMT

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