KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — Rights and union groups have submitted a complaint of wrongful conviction on behalf of Indonesian migrant worker Sabri Umar to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

In the complaint, the groups called on Suhakam to hold a public inquiry on the alleged human rights violations suffered by Sabri, who is also a member of the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU).

According to the groups, Sabri was wrongfully arrested and detained from April 5, 2022 to April 19, 2022.

The alleged human rights violations faced by Sabri are said to include assault and torture while under police custody, being wrongfully charged as staying in Malaysia illegally, and being wrongfully whipped before his appeal was heard and determined.

Sabri was convicted and sentenced to 11 months in prison (from April 19, 2022 to July 22, 2022) and five strokes of the whip.

In the complaint submitted to Suhakam, Sabri and the groups alleged that the violators were the police, Immigration Department (Sabah Immigration Department), the public prosecutor, Tawau Prison, Tawau Sessions Court, the lawyer and officer(s) of the Indonesian Consul in Tawau and possibly the employer (Fu Yee Corporation Sdn Bhd).

According to the complaint, Sabri was wrongfully charged and convicted by the Tawau Session Court for being an undocumented migrant for the offence of violating Section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 on April 19, 2022.

“The police at the point of arrest had Sabri’s Indonesian passport, with his PLKS information.

“Pages of Sabri’s current and some past passports, together with the relevant PLKS, the most recent issued on employment pass was dated January 24, 2022 valid until January 24, 2023,” said representatives of the groups who were present at Suhakam’s headquarters today.

The complaint was received by Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mary @ Mariati Robert.

“We want Suhakam to look specifically at the wrongful arrest, wrongful detention in custody, wrongful charging, wrongful conviction, wrongful imprisonment, and wrongful whipping, all of which was caused by the action/omission, intentionally or otherwise, by the police, prosecutors, Immigration Department, Prisons Department and the Sessions Court, possibly with the involvement of the employer.

“We also want Suhakam to look at the failings of the lawyer and the officers of the Indonesian Consul that resulted in Sabri spending more time in detention and being whipped, as the lawyer and consul officers became aware of the case on or about April 22, 2022,” the groups said.

In the complaint, a petition of appeal to the High Court was filed on or about April 22, 2022 and had still yet to be heard until July 22, 2022.

Despite the hearing not being held, Sabri was whipped.

“This was in violation of the law that states that the sentence of whipping cannot be carried until the appeal is heard and determined.

“Sabri was whipped according to the Prisons Department, because the Sessions Court informed them that there were no appeals,” the groups said.

On July 22, 2022, the High Court called up the case for revision and Sabri was acquitted and released from prison and has since applied for a Special Pass.

“The Immigration Department wrongly did not issue the normal one-month Special Pass, but only Special Pass for two weeks.

“The immigration officer had told Sabri that the two-week pass was sufficient to make arrangements to leave Malaysia.

“(However) Sabri does not want to leave Malaysia, he intends to stay and work legally to pursue his rights, including his claim for reinstatement, which is now about to be referred to the Industrial Court,” said the groups.

Sabri was an employee at Fu Yee Corporation Sdn Bhd in Tawau, Sabah since January 28, 2016 until the date of his alleged wrongful termination on April 4, 2022.

According to the groups, there was no show-cause letter or domestic inquiry before the wrongful termination.

They also stressed that the purported reason seemed to be an allegation of crime, but a person is presumed innocent until they are tried and convicted after a fair trial in court.

“An employer’s conclusion that a worker is guilty of a crime cannot be a ground for termination of employment.

“Sabri denies committing any crime,” the groups said.

At present, Sabri is claiming for reinstatement under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967.

Sabri is also an active union member of STIEU and STIEU is in the process of seeking recognition by the employer, opposing and trying to set up an in-house union.

Past actions have been taken against STIEU members and the group claimed that Sabri’s targeting could be related, and a form of union busting. - Malay Mail, 10/8/2022