The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has released its final findings and decisions on the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh, Joshua & Ruth Hilmy and Amri Che Mat. Susannah Koh, wife of Pastor Raymond, said of the findings, "This is the beginning of our fight for religious freedom and human rights. We want to see the people involved be investigated and brought to justice. It is a process, it will take time."
Read Pastor Raymond's story from the beginning.
‘VICTIM OF AN ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE’
The Chairman of the Panel, Dato’ Mah Weng Kai, read from the report saying, "The panel is of the unanimous view that Pastor Raymond Koh is a victim of an enforced disappearance that took place on 13 February 2017 at about 10.45am. The direct and circumstantial evidence in the Pastor Raymond Koh’s case proves, on a balance of probabilities, that he was abducted by State agents, namely, the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur."
The panel also made a similar remark on activist Amri Che Mat, who is a Shia Muslim – a group that is banned in Malaysia.
The chairman pointed out the following similarities of the two cases:
- That they were targeted by religious authorities and the police on allegations that they were involved in matters against Islam in Malaysia
- That there was direct surveillance on their activities before they disappeared
- That the way their disappearances were carried out bore uncanny similarities – how their cars were ‘boxed in’ by three four-wheel drive vehicles and the people involved wore black clothing
- The presence of a gold colour Toyota Vios in both cases. In Amri’s case, a witness testified that he saw it parked near Amri’s house three days before his disappearance. In Raymond’s case, another witness testified that the car was at the scene of the kidnapping.
SPECIAL TASK-FORCE TO BE DEPLOYED
The panel has recommended that a special task force be set up to reinvestigate Pastor Koh's disappearance, along with the following further recommendations:
- The State and its agents, including the police and equally the State Religious Authorities, must recognise and respect the fundamental human right of religion. Malaysia should ratify and give legal validity to the International Convention for the Protections of All Person from Enforced Disappearance 2006 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.
- A clear distinction between the police and the religious authorities. It said, ‘From the evidence adduced (presented) during the Public Inquiry, it is clear that both the police and the religious authorities are uncertain of the extent of their powers and jurisdiction in respect of the enforcement against the propagation of Christianisation.’
- The State should reform Standard Operating Procedures of the police. Recommended reforms include reviewing protocol for suspected missing persons where there is evidence of an abduction or involuntary disappearance and implementing stringent training on communication protocol and procedures for informing the family members of any progress in a timely manner.
- The Special Branch, which presently operates without a transparent legal provision, must be made accountable and its powers and responsibilities detailed in law so that it can function impartially and independently. The law should clearly define ‘security’ to avoid any abuse of power and to increase accountability.
- Reclassify Pastor Raymond Koh’s case as an enforced disappearance case from that of a missing person case and conduct all necessary investigation under the new classification.
‘WE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE OUR HUSBANDS RETURN SAFE AND SOUND’
At the end of the proceedings, the panel expressed its deepest sympathies to the wives of both victims and apologised for not being able to find their husbands. Susannah Koh said, "We are glad that the decision has been made that they have been victims of enforced disappearances. We are thankful for all that has been done. But we would like to have our husbands return safe and sound. We ask for an independent task force and to open up documents that have been put under the OSA (Official Secrets Act). We want to meet the Home Minister. We want to get updates from the IGP (Inspector General of Police), Special Branch, CID Chief on the investigations. We want to see the truth revealed. Until today, we just don’t know why they were taken. Malaysia is a moderate country, there should be the rule of law. There should be freedom of religion to practise one’s faith."
Esther Koh, Raymond’s daughter, further added, "We were very affected. It has never been the same without him. Having to deal with the police has been stressful for all of us. Not knowing what happened, it is ambiguous loss and causes mental stress."
They were then asked about their next course of action now that SUHAKAM has pointed the finger at the Special Branch. Susannah replied that she will give them six months to give her an answer. If nothing is done, she will have no choice but to take a civil suit against them. However, she said that she will need to consult her lawyers on this first, who are working pro bono.
Before closing, she thanked God for helping her through this journey of two years. She also expressed how real God has been to her and how He has comforted her during this difficult time, and is thankful to the Christian community for their prayers and support.
Thank you for all of your prayers, advocacy and support. Open Doors continues to stand with Susannah in her call for justice and truth.
- For God to lead Susannah and her family on what to do next. Also please pray for His leading and direction for their lawyers and all who are directly involved in the case
- For the families of the missing as they are still grieving. Susannah and Norhayati, the wife of Amri Che Mat, both cried during the proceedings, as they recounted their experiences and feelings over the issue
- For the government to take positive steps on the recommendations made by SUHAKAM on freedom of religion as a human right, to enable all their citizens to practise their faith without fear.