It has been a year since Aminul Rasyid Amzah was killed by the police. Until today, there is no official apology from the police and the case is still in court, where the accused has been called to enter his defence, as a prima facie case has been established against him. But still, justice delayed is justice denied.
I was not at the scene of the incident, so I can not tell the truth behind the incident. However, I would like to give my personal opinion on the manner in which the police did the shooting.
This is not the first time the police shot suspects to death, as suspects who are under a remand order can also died in lock-ups. Remember Kugan Ananthan and Gunasegaran Rajasundram? Or should I remind you with two deaths at the premise of the police’s “brother”, the MACC? Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbani? To make things straight, I have nothing against the police or the authorities. I know they have a huge responsibility to ensure that Malaysians live peacefully. But not everything can be settled through shooting or killing, especially when the shooting causes the death of suspects.
In this particular incident, the reason for the police shooting is questionable. I don’t think the police needed to fire multiple shots in the first place. The boy was wrong for driving without a valid licence and snuck out from his house in the middle of the night without his parents’ permission. But can that be a justification for the shooting? Moreover, if I were in his shoes, maybe I would do the same. Just imagine, being chased by several people in motorcycles and accidentally knocking a car. Then, suddenly being chased by police patrol cars. Any “Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu” aged 15 would probably panic in such a situation.
The police had reasonable suspicion to arrest him. Section 24 of the Police Act provides that “if any police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a vehicle is being used in the commission of any offence, he may stop and detain the person” [Section 24(1)(b)]. Section 24(3) of the same Act further adds that “if the person fails to obey any reasonable signal of the police officer to stop the vehicle, the person is guilty of an offence and can be arrested without a warrant.”
So, in my opinion, when the car had stopped, the police should have first told the boy to surrender. In some newspapers, they reported that the police shot the boy when he tried to run over the police while reversing the car. My personal opinion is that the statement is quite absurd. Based on several photos I have found in blogs, it is impossible for the car to go forward. So, logically, the police will go to the side of the car and not to the back of the car if they wanted to check the condition of the boy.
And some newspapers reported that the police found a long parang in the car. Is it just a cover up to justify the shooting? Nobody will ever know.
Nevertheless, the mother revealed another fact to reporters. The boy had already died before the car went over the side of the road and hit a house. This means that while asking the car to stop, the police had already shot the boy to death. I think this is intolerable. The police should not start firing at the car if they know that, by shooting it, they may cause death to the persons inside the car.
According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life [Article 9]. Article 10 further adds that the officials must identify themselves as such and give a clear warning on their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed unless by doing so, it will unduly place the law enforcement officials at risk, or would create a risk of death or serious harm to other persons.
The point here is, the use of firearms can only be justified if it is strictly unavoidable.
Even in criminal law, the defence of self-defence can only be invoked if he is in imminent danger, with no other means to save himself from that danger. In an English case, Rashford (2005) All ER 192, the question in that case was whether the defendant feared that he was in immediate danger from which he had no other means of escape; if the violence he used was no more than appeared necessary to preserve his own life or protect himself from serious injury, he would be entitled to rely on self-defence. The keyword here, besides imminent danger, is the proportionality of the attack.
Thus, did the police fire a warning shot before firing at the boy’s car, and subsequently at the boy? Next, did the boy fire back or use other means to attack the police and put the police in imminent danger?
The police have many powers in order to prevent crimes, but that does not includes shooting a suspect to death. According to Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. This means that a person should be considered innocent until it can be proven that he is guilty. If a person is accused of a crime, he should always have the right to defend himself. Nobody has the right to condemn him and punish him for something he has not done.
So, is there any proof to show that the boy is guilty? Even under Article 11 of the UDHR, he is innocent until he is proven guilty. The police must also remember that a suspect is not necessarily guilty. The word suspect itself shows that the suspect is not yet guilty but that it is just suspected that he may have committed a crime.
A fatal shot will cause death to the suspect. If the suspect is dead, how can the police tender evidence to show that he is guilty? How can the investigation continue when the suspect himself is dead?
Khairul Idzwan read law in UiTM and is now chambering. He misses his law school days. He blogs at http://kairulizwan.wordpress.com.