We are here to remember Teoh Beng Hock, cruel victim of injustice and misgovernance, and to reaffirm our commitment to continue to do all we can to ensure that we will not cease until justice is done to Beng Hock and his family.
The death of Teoh Beng Hock at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters at Shah Alam on July 16, 2009, together with cases of Ahmad Sarbaini, Aminurasyid and V. Kugan will be among the priority cases of “transitional justice” in a new Pakatan Rakyat government in Putrajaya after the 13th General Election to address human rights violations and rebuild social trust in a democratic system of governance.
What is “transitional justice”?
Let me quote from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ):
Transitional justice refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. These measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs and various kinds of institutional reforms.
Transitional justice is not a ‘special’ kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. By trying to achieve accountability and redressing victims, transitional justice provides recognition of the rights of victims, promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law.
In the aftermath of massive human rights abuses, victims have well established rights to see the perpetrators punished, to know the truth, and to receive reparations.
Because systemic human rights violations affect not just the direct victims, but society as a whole, in addition to satisfying these obligations, states have duties to guarantee that the violations will not recur, and therefore, a special duty to reform institutions that were either involved in or incapable of preventing the abuses.
A history of unaddressed massive abuses is likely to be socially divisive, to generate mistrust between groups and in the institutions of the State, and to hamper or slow down the achievement of security and development goals. It raises questions about the commitment to the rule of law and, ultimately, can lead to cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms.
As it is seen in most countries where massive human rights violations take place, the claims of justice refuse to ‘go away.’
In recent decades, transitional justice has gained an important foundation in international law and increasingly, all states are expected to enshrine and uphold four fundamental obligations of vital importance in the area of human rights in the fight against impunity and respect for victims’ rights. These are:
• To take reasonable steps to prevent human rights violations;
• To conduct a serious investigation of violations when they occur;
• To impose suitable sanctions on those responsible for the violations;
• To ensure reparation for the victims of the violation.
In the tragic case of Teoh Beng Hock, the Malaysian government has failed to live up to all these four fundamental obligations – powerful reasons why transitional justice has to be invoked when there is a change of government in Putrajaya in the 13GE.
The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak broke his solemn undertaking to Teoh Beng Hock’s family on July 28, 2009 that “no stone would be left unturned” to find the causes and circumstances of TBH’s death. It is clear that the Najib administration is not serious in wanting to bring Teoh’s killers to justice.
Two weeks ago, MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Abu Kassim Mohamad said the MACC would decide on the form of disciplinary action against three MACC officers named by the TBH Royal Commission of Inquiry of having “driven…Teoh…to commit suicide…by their aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation” – when the three should be charged in court for a variety of criminal offences including perjury at the RCI and the TBH inquest as well as the re-opening of high-powered investigation into Teoh’s killers as the RCI has found that the initial police investigations had been undermined by the conspiracy of “blue wall of silence” of MACC officers to thwart police investigations from establishing the truth and to pervert the course of justice.
The prioritisation of the case of Teoh Beng Hock for transitional justice will serve eight broad objectives – establishing the truth, providing victims a public platform, holding perpetrators accountable, strengthening the rule of law, providing victims with compensation, effectuating institutional reform, promoting reconciliation, and promoting public deliberation.
All cases of victims of gross violation of human rights and the culture of impunity, whether the mysterious deaths of Teoh Beng Hock, Ahmad Sarbaini, Aminurashid, V. Kugan, will be proper cases for transitional justice if Pakatan Rakyat forms the new government in Putrajaya in the 13GE.
(Speech at the forum “Justice in a Period of Change” as part of the Teoh Beng Hock third death anniversary programme held at KL/Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Tuesday, 10th July 2012 at 8 pm)