Wife of disappeared activist files suit against govt

“This month marks three years since Amri was snatched from us, yet I remain in the dark as to where he is and whether he is still alive,” said Norhayati.

2019.11.18 Press release

Disappeared social activist’s wife files suit against Malaysian government and police

18 November 2019, Kuala Lumpur – Norhayati Mohd Ariffin (Norhayati), the wife of disappeared social activist Amri Che Mat (Amri), has commenced civil proceedings against the Malaysian government, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), as well as the former Home Affairs minister Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi.

Also included are a number of currently serving and former police officers, including former Inspectors General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Tan Sri Fuzi Harun and former principal assistant director CP (ret.) Dato’ Awaludin Jadid who headed “E2: Social Extremism”, an intelligence division within the Special Branch dedicated to religious and social issues.

Norhayati’s claim, which was filed today at the Kuala Lumpur High Court by her solicitor Larissa Ann Louis of Azri, Lee Swee Seng & Co, concerns the conduct of PDRM and its officers, as well as the Home Affairs Ministry, during their investigations into Amri’s disappearance during the period of 24 November 2016 to 26 June 2019, which is the date when a special task force under the auspices of the Home Affairs Ministry was announced.

“This month marks three years since Amri was snatched from us, yet I remain in the dark as to where he is and whether he is still alive,” said Norhayati. “From the beginning, it was clear to me that PDRM was actively failing to investigate my husband’s disappearance. I am convinced that this failure, especially in the critical first few days, is why my husband was not found or recovered safely from his abductors.”

She further asserted: “PDRM’s continued failure to conduct proper investigations over the next following months arguably reinforced the conspiracy of silence that protected his abductors and concealed Amri’s fate and whereabouts. It is why my daughters and I have suffered and continue to suffer serious anguish and distress since Amri’s abduction.”

At the time of his disappearance in 2016, Amri and Norhayati, both 43, had been married for 19 years. They have 4 daughters. Since then, Norhayati, a primary school teacher, has shouldered all financial and non-financial responsibilities of the family as well as the burden of finding out the truth and securing justice for her disappeared husband.

Amri disappeared on the night of 24 November 2016 in Kangar, Perlis. According to witnesses, his car was forced to a stop near his house after being surrounded by three vehicles. He and his car were then removed from the scene. Around an hour later, security guards at a construction site near Padang Besar found Amri’s car abandoned and stripped of identification. They immediately contacted the police.

In 2018, an inquiry into Amri’s disappearance by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) was held in Kuala Lumpur, along with a similar inquiry into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh who was abducted in Petaling Jaya on 13 February 2017.

On 3 April 2019, SUHAKAM announced its decisions for both cases, concluding that both men were victims of enforced disappearance. SUHAKAM stated that Amri’s enforced disappearance was “carried out by agents of the State, namely the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur”, followed by “a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty” and the “concealment of the fate and the whereabouts of the disappeared person” which placed Amri “outside the protection of the law”.

Like Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat had been targeted by state religious authorities prior to his abduction. Amri, accused by the powerful state mufti of being Shia, was also actively investigated by the Special Branch PDRM both in Perlis and at Bukit Aman, in collaboration with the Perlis Mufti Dato’ Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

Norhayati’s lawsuit advances a number of claims against the defendants, including: breach of law, breach of statutory duties, misfeasance in public office, and negligence (duty of care and breach of standard of care).

“There are 21 defendants listed in this claim, all of whom are alleged to be liable, whether directly or indirectly, for the failure to investigate Amri’s disappearance,” explained Surendra Ananth, counsel for Norhayati. “This amounts to a violation of the family’s right to have the matter effectively investigated, which is a right guaranteed under Article 5(1), Federal Constitution. It also amounts to cruel, inhumane and/or degrading treatment.”

“We say that the conduct of the Defendants from the date of Amri’s abduction up until the formation of the special task force by the Minister of Home Affairs on 26 June 2019 is a violation of the said rights and amounts to actionable torts. To be clear, our claim is limited to the investigation aspect before the formation of the task force,” Surendra further elaborated.

Norhayati’s solicitor Larissa Ann Louis concurred: “It has been a horrific ordeal for Amri’s loved ones, especially for Norhayati and his daughters, made worse by the apparent lack of care on the part of the authorities. Norhayati’s claim is for a range of reliefs, including aggravated and exemplary damages, for the loss she has suffered as a result of the acts and omissions of the police.”

On 24 November, Norhayati and her family, together with Amri’s friends, will mark the third anniversary since Amri’s disappearance. To date, no one has been arrested or charged in connection with Amri’s disappearance, which is still officially classified as a “missing person” case by Perlis PDRM.

Issued for & on behalf of Madam Norhayati Mohd Ariffin by: Sheryll Stothard (scs0820@gmail.com)

For further information:

Amri Che Mat family spokesperson:

Mr Mohd Faisol Abdul Rahman (T: +6013-489 9717)

Legal team spokespersons:

1. Mr Surendra Ananth (+6012-384 9609)

Associate, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar Advocates & Solicitors

2. Ms Larissa Ann Louis (+6016-339 9653)

Associate, Azri, Lee Swee Seng & Co

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