SUARAM condemns the latest death in police custody in Seberang Perai and warns that they will continue unless urgent review and reform is initiated by the Malaysian government. While the Penang Police Chief Abdul Rahim has stated that police will conduct an investigation into the most recent case, the police lack the independence and institutional record for this investigation to be meaningful or credible. In line with these concerns, SUARAM is calling for an immediate inquest to be conducted by the coroner’s court.
The latest case is of an unnamed 56-year-old, who died on 28 September, after allegedly jumping from the first floor of the North Seberang Perai district police headquarters building in Penang, though it is unclear how this was possible under the watchful eyes of the police officers. This incident is the latest of ten deaths in police custody in 2014, as seen below;
|1||10 February 2014||A. Punniyanathan||40||Nibong Tebal Police Station, Penang|
|2||18 February 2014||J. Kulanthangam||34||Dang Wangi Police Station, Kuala Lumpur|
|3||1 March 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 June 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 June 2014||Kor Kheng Soon||43||Kuantan Police Station, Penang|
|9||5 July 2014||Unnamed||40||Maran Police Station, Pahang|
|10||28 September 2014||Unnamed||56||North Seberang Perai (SPU) District Police Headquarters, Penang|
There were at least twelve deaths in police custody documented by Suaram in 2013, suggesting that without urgent reform, Malaysia can anticipate an average of one or even more custodial death per month.
It is absolutely essential that the government take immediate action, and review and reform the Standard Operating Procedure for handling criminal suspects and prisoners, provide urgent training for police on basic human rights and the proper and humane treatment of prisoners and detainees, and improve the medical and psychiatric check-up system and services in all police stations. Additionally, the government must ensure accountability for those involved in custodial deaths. This should take the form of drafting and passing long demanded anti-torture legislation, the establishment of a permanent coroner’s court to review cases of custodial death, as was promised by the Home Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi in June 2013, and the overdue establishment of the Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) which was proposed by the Royal Commission nearly a decade ago.
It is also necessary to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation in this latest case to establish the circumstances of the deceased’s death, specifically how he was able to allegedly jump to his death, while handcuffed, in the presence of police officers. This must independently evaluate the conduct of the police officers to ensure torture or inhumane, degrading, or cruel treatment was not being employed at any stage during their investigations. It must also look at what medical and psychiatric measures were in place to prevent, minimize, and treat mental illness, self-harm, and medical emergencies at the station.
According to the Lockup Rules of 1958, the police officer on duty has the responsibility to ensure the health of detainees and the conditions of lockup in the station. Further, 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…” Regardless of the circumstances of the deceased’s death, the police are under a strict obligation to ensure the detainee’s well-being and safety, including from self-harm. Accordingly, this case potentially represents negligence, assault, or murder, depending on the conduct of the police.
SUARAM demands an immediate end to the serious structural and institutional human rights violations which have allowed for these deaths in custody to continue unabated at such a high rate for so many years. The government’s failure to institute necessary reforms and ensure effective mechanisms to hold the Malaysian police accountable is absolutely unacceptable and represents a gross derogation of their human rights responsibilities as enshrined in international human rights law and the Malaysian Constitution.
Yap Swee Seng
For inquiry, please contact:
Mr. Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Suaram at +6012 2015272 or [email protected]