Eight deaths in police custody in less than six months – Urgent need for police reform

Suaram condemns the police for the failure to prevent the latest two cases of death in police custody that took place in Penang and Kuantan despite public outcry on the rising cases of death in police custody.

The latest victims were Agin Raj, who was detained by Bandar Perda police station on 2 June prior to his death in Bukit Mertajam Hospital on 7 June, and Koh Kheng Soon, who was arrested and detained at Kuantan police station on 5 June and was found dead the next day in the police station on 6 June.

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Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy and Regina Devi at the Seberang Jaya Hospital yesterday. Regina Devi claimed there were injuries on the body and legs of her deceased brother. – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/penang-dcm-to-push-for-inquest-following-death-of-lorry-driver#sthash.vn021bmz.dpuf

The police claimed that Agin Raj died of lack of oxygen to the brain resulting in breathing difficulties while and the same claim of breathing difficulties was made on the case of Koh Kheng Soon by the police.

Suaram is however alarmed that the sister of Agin Raj spotted injuries on the body and legs of his brother, to which the police suggested that these may have been sustained prior to his arrest. It is even more suspicious in the case of Koh Kheng Soon, who died after just spending a night in Kuantan police station and the family has alleged cover-up of his death by the police.

Suaram calls on inquest by the coroner’s court to be immediately conducted on both cases to determine the actual cause of deaths and the responsibilities of the police officers involved.

These two cases added to the alarming statistic of death in police custody rising to a total of eight cases even before we have even ended the first half of the year, compared to 12 cases in total in 2013. This makes the ratio of 1.3 deaths in police custody every month in 2014.

Below are the names of suspects who died in police custody for the year 2014:

No. Date Name Age Location
1 10 Feb 2014 A. Punniyanathan 40 Nibong Tebal Police Station, Penang
2 18 Feb 2014 J. Kulanthangam 34 Dang Wangi Police Station, Kuala Lumpur
3 1 Mac 2014 Ramasamy Nagu 50 Bayang Baru Police Station, Penang
4 13 April 2014 Murugan Muniandy 37 IPD Seberang Perai Tengah, Penang
5 16 April 2014 Morgan Arjunan 48 Jinjang Police Station, Kuala Lumpur
6 27 April 2014 Rahamat Md Noor 56 Bayang Baru Police Station, Penang
7 7 Jun 2014 Naidu Agin Raj 29 Bukit Mertajam Hospital and was held by Bandar Perda Police Station, Penang prior to the admission into hospital
8 7 Jun 2014 Kor Kheng Soon 43 Kuantan Police Station, Penang

Police station, a place considered to be safe looks opposite in reality. The pertinent question remains, why do the suspects have to lose their lives after being detained and even before proven that they are guilty as charged? Why a detainee could die in police station for just spending a night in police lock-up?

The possibilities of death after arrest can be attributed to two possibilities, one, poor screening and assessment of health condition of suspects detained; and two, torture or abuse by the police towards suspects during investigations.

An officer who fails to provide the necessary medical attention to a suspect is a clear sign of negligence. This negligence leads to death. It is even a greater crime when a suspect is tortured and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment to coerce confession. Such torture and cruel treatment, leads to injuries, and at times, death.

Every individual’s right to life is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. Article 5 provides that “…No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law…” Similarly, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “…Everyone has the right to life, to be free and to feel safe…”

It is high time for the government to address the root-causes of recurring death in custody cases. The government must address the root causes of death in custody and step up the medical check-up system and services in all police stations and legislate anti-torture law to prevent such incidents from happening again.

More importantly, there must be no impunity for police officer who have neglected their duties or committed acts of torture. They should be held accountable and brought to justice. The Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) is needed more than ever to investigate public complaints against police officers who abused their power and restore the credibility and accountability of the police force.

SUARAM demands an immediate end to these serious human rights violations. The failure to ensure effective mechanisms to hold the Malaysian police accountable highlight a serious lack of political will by the government to take genuine steps to reform the police force in this country.

Released by,

Theva Rajan
Coordinator

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