Three deaths in three months – Government fails to stop death in custody

The numbers of custodial death continues to rise as we just stepped into the month of March. Ramasamy Nagu, was found dead at the Bayan Baru police lock up in Penang, as reported by the online news portal fz.com.

According to SUARAM’s monitoring of custodial deaths, this is the third death in the year of 2014, as illustrated below:

Date Name Place
10 February 2014 A. Punniyanathan Nibong Tebal Police Station
18 February 2014 J. Kulanthangam Dang Wangi Police Station
1 March 2014 Ramasamy Nagu Bayan Baru Police Station

The irony of the death of Ramasamy Nagu is that the Bayan Baru centralised police lock-up was established last year after huge public outcry on continuation of deaths in police custody. The sophisticated centre was believed to be built to reduce incidents of custodial deaths. Unfortunately, the death of Ramasamy Nagu has proven otherwise.

Instead of investigating why the centralised police lock-up failed in stopping death in custody, the Barat Daya District OCPD Supt Lai Fa Hin, in a press statement, chose to highlight that Ramasamy Nagu’s family confirmed that Ramasamy Nagu was a drug addict and that even Ramasamy’s brother admitted that Ramasamy was a hardcore addict.” (Fz.com) Brandishing Ramasamy as hardcore addict does not absolve the duty of the police to ensure the well being of those held under their custody.

According to the Lockup Rules 1958, police officer on duty has the responsibility to ensure the health of detainees and the conditions of lockup in the station. The said officer is also required to record in details every action and tasks performed on a daily basis.

It is also unprofessional for the OCPD to assert that there were no elements of crime involved in the death of Ramasamy even before an inquest is conducted on the custodial death. It is the job of the Magistrate to determine the actual cause of death of Ramasamy and not the police themselves.

SUARAM maintains that any investigation on police’s misconducts must be performed by an independent and external body. We demand for an inquest on the death of Ramasamy Nagu to be initiated immediately.

Suaram reiterate our calls to the Home Miniter, Datuk Zahid Hamidi, to establish a permanent coroner’s court to scrutinize all death in custody cases as he had promised in June 2013. We call on the government to legislate anti-torture law to outlaw torture in order to end torture practices by law enforcement agencies.

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