Malaysian human rights inquiry says police were behind pastor's disappearance

Malaysian Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted two years

An inquiry into the disappearance of a pastor in Malaysia two years ago has pointed the finger at religious authorities and the police. 

Malaysia's human rights commission, Suhakam, concluded that the Special Branch of the Malaysian police was behind the "enforced disappearances" of Pastor Raymond Koh, who was last seen on 13 February 2017, and Muslim social activist, Amri Che Mat, who went missing on 24 November 2016.

An eye witness said he saw Pastor Koh being taken from his car in Selangor at around 10:45am by 15 men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas. Mr Amri disappeared after leaving his home. His car was found the following day at a construction site.

The report identified their religious activities as a factor in their disappearances.  Prior to going missing, Pastor Koh had been accused of proselytising Muslims, while Mr Amri practised Shia Islam, which is banned in Sunni-majority Malaysia. 

The Council of Churches in Malaysia (CCM) is now demanding justice for the families.

It called upon the Malaysian government to launch an "independent and impartial" investigation into the disappearances, saying that the families had a "right to know the truth about the fate and whereabouts of these two men".

They also said the investigation needed to "clarify and separate the jurisdictions of the religious authorities and the Royal Malaysia Police" and be "free of conflict of interest". 

"The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) is thankful to Suhakam for conducting this inquiry with integrity, impartiality, transparency and courage," CCM's General Secretary, Dr Hermen Shastri, said.

"Suhakam had to take this up in the absence of an impartial and serious investigation, which the Malaysian police should have conducted as part of their statutory duty to uphold law and order in this country.

"This Suhakam investigation and inquiry process has been a vindication of the need for human rights to be placed at the forefront of all law and order matters in Malaysia. Going forward, we urge the Malaysian government to pay heed to the recommendations made by Suhakam today."

Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, applauded the "courage, clarity and unanimity" of the commission in carrying out its investigation. 

He called for freedom of religion to be respected in Malaysia as a "fundamental human right." 

"We urge the government of Malaysia to act swiftly to ensure that the recommendations are implemented fully and effectively," he said.

"We call on the Malaysian authorities to do everything possible to establish the truth about the whereabouts and well-being of Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat, and ensure that such incidents never recur.

"Enforced disappearances have absolutely no place in a civilised, democratic society where the rule of law should be respected and fundamental human rights upheld."