The responsibility for probing alleged human rights violations during the Bersih 3.0 rally should rightly be vested in the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), said the Bar Council.

As such, it said, the decision of the government-backed independent panel to proceed with its probe is absurd.

NONE“It is incongruous that the panel is proceeding with the inquiry when Suhakam, a statutory and independent commission, has stated that it would undertake such an inquiry,” said Bar Council vice-president Christopher Leong.

In a text-message to Malaysiakini today, he questioned the purpose of separate inquiries.

“Suhakam is the proper body to undertake the inquiry - it has the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so. The Suhakam Act 1999 provides for this,” he said.

Yesterday, panel head and former police chief Mohd Hanif Omar had said he is willing to meet the Bar Council and any other party for the benefit of the investigations, for which 10 terms of reference have been set.

azlanAt an extraordinary general meeting on May 11, the Malaysian Bar had demanded that a UN special rapporteur should head the panel, failing which it would not participate in the probe.

Apart from objecting to Hanif’s involvement, the Bar had questioned the absence of legal power for the panel to call or subpoena witnesses or call for the production of documents.

Although Hanif has insisted that his track record has proven that he acts with integrity, Leong said this is not the crux of the issue.

“The Bar Council does not in fact question his integrity, and respects that Hanif had given invaluable service to the country. It is, unfortunately, about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel,” explained Leong.

"The Bar had stated earlier that it would participate in the Suhakam inquiry and it would not serve any useful purpose for the public to duplicate the process." 

Suhakam had announced its public inquiry and terms of reference, stressing that it is obliged to carry out a probe, before the government set up the independent panel.

Leong added, however, that the Bar Council “is always amenable” to meet Hanif to discuss the matter.