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Bar Council’s call to disband Rela

KUALA LUMPUR, 5 Dec 2008: The Bar Council today called on the authority to disband Rela (People’s Volunteer Corps) following numerous reports on its members’ abuse of power and brutality in enforcement raids.

Bar Council Law Reform and Special Areas chairperson Datuk M Ramachelvam said Rela members were not trained for such a job and by allowing them to carry out raids would only perpetuate human rights abuses.

He said instead of capitalising on Rela’s manpower, the government should employ more Immigration officers to carry out the job.

“How can they become law enforcers when they undergo only two weeks of training? That is OK if their role is confined to directing traffic, but not conducting raids as they are doing now.

“Rela is not equipped to determine the authenticity of the documents carried by migrants. Allowing Rela to continue to conduct raids on their own will means that many persons who are documented and who have not committed any offence will also end up being detained,” he said at a news conference after chairing a roundtable discussion on the “Arrest and Detention of Migrants”, here, today.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the relevant government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

The Bar Council also called on the government to set up special sessions courts and to engage more legal aides to expedite immigration cases involving migrants.

“To ensure better access to justice, the special session courts should not be located within the detention centres so as to allow the legal counsel to have better access to the accused persons.

“With the levy paid to the government by foreign workers which is close to RM7 billion, the government should use a portion of this amount for that purpose.

“We are concerned about the number of persons unrepresented and also the number of detainees who plead guilty without understanding the consequences of their pleas,” Ramachelvam said.

He said records based on observations at four detention centres showed that 94.8% of the foreigners were unrepresented, 89.8% of those who appeared in court pleaded guilty while in 74.4% of cases, the accused were not told of the consequences of their guilty plea.

The Bar Council, he added, also called on the government to ratify the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, recognise the card issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and that the refugees be granted the right to work pending repatriation. — Bernama


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