Date: November 23, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Jim Carr today announced his adoption of Pastor Raymond Koh through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
Pastor Koh is a Christian pastor who, prior to his disappearance, ran a NGO focused on people living with HIV/AIDs, recovering addicts, and single mothers and children. Local Islamic authorities had investigated his organization over allegations that the group was working to convert Muslims to Christianity.
“The government of Malaysia must make good on its promise to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation of the circumstances of Pastor Koh’s abduction, and to ensure his wellbeing and safe return home,” said Commissioner Carr. “Malaysia is a leading economy and democracy in Southeast Asia. However, as USCIRF has consistently noted, its respect for freedom of religion and belief is critically lacking. The basic rights of vulnerable religious communities must be protected.”
Pastor Koh disappeared on February 13, 2017 in the Malaysian state of Selangor. The National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) announced in 2019 that Raymond Koh was a victim of enforced disappearance carried out by the Special Branch, an intelligence unit affiliated with the Malaysian police force. In its report, SUHAKAM investigated the cases of several individuals whom it determined were examples of enforced disappearances perpetrated by certain parts of the Malaysian security forces. In response to this investigation, the Malaysian government set up a task force in June 2019 to investigate the disappearances of Pastor Koh and others, which is still ongoing.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate Malaysia as a “special watch list country” due to its systematic and ongoing violations of religious freedom. USCIRF has reported on Pastor Koh in its October 2019 Factsheet on Enforced Disappearances in Malaysia
In addition to his adoption into the RPOC Project, Pastor Koh joins one other Malaysian victim of disappearance on USCIRF’s Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) Victims List, a database that catalogues select victims targeted due to their freedom of religion or belief.