PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today upheld a High Court decision which found the police liable for the unlawful arrest of five human rights lawyers and an activist who took part in the Human Rights Day Walk in Kuala Lumpur in 2007, and ordered them to pay RM10,000 in damages to each of the six men.
A three-member panel led by Zaharah Ibrahim unanimously dismissed the police and the government’s appeal to reverse the High Court decision declaring as unlawful the arrest of the six people and awarding them RM10,000 each in general damages and RM60,000 in legal costs.
The panel, which also comprised Justices Anantham Kasinather and Abdul Aziz Abd Rahim, also dismissed the cross appeal brought by R. Sivarasa, N. Surendran, Latheefa Beebi Koya, Eric Paulsen, Amer Hamzah Arshad and activist Johny Andu alias Abu Bakar Adnan for a higher quantum of damages.
Justice Zaharah did not award costs.
The six were charged on Dec 10, 2007, with being in an unlawful assembly the previous day in front of the Kamdar building in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and failing to adhere to police orders to disperse.
On April 16, 2009, they were acquitted and discharged by the Sessions Court, without being called to make their defence on the charges.
On Dec 8, 2010, the six filed a civil suit against then-Dang Wangi police deputy chief Supt Che Hamzah Che Ismail, the inspector-general of police, the home ministry and the government over their arrest and detention.
In their statement of claim, the six claimed that they participated in and/or organised a peaceful rally and march in conjunction with World Human Rights Day which is celebrated worldwide on Dec 10 every year.
They claimed that they were subsequently allowed to continue to participate in the march within 10 minutes but before the 10 minutes expired, they found that they were surrounded by a large group of police personnel.
The six alleged that the police then gave orders to disperse but while attempting to do so (to disperse), they were arrested.
In July last year, High Court judge John Louis O’Hara awarded each of them RM10,000 in general damages as well as RM60,000 in legal costs after allowing their claim that their arrest and detention were unlawful.
The six were represented by lawyer Edmund Bon while senior federal counsel Nadia Hanim Tajuddin appeared for the police and government.