Faster probes into police custody deaths

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 09 Jun 2004


KUALA LUMPUR: All deaths of detainees in police custody will be investigated within a month and an inquest held to find out the causes as part of new initiatives to reform the remand system. 

Detainees would also get a copy of documents stating the reasons they were being detained as part of moves to restore confidence in the lock-up system. 

Other initiatives taken are to improve the welfare and security of detainees such as the installation of closed-circuit TV at lock-ups, providing prayer mats for Muslim detainees and converting the concrete flooring of cells to wooden flooring.  

The initiatives were discussed at a meeting between Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamed Bakri Omar and state police chiefs last month. 

They follow public criticism over the way the police were handling cases of deaths while under police custody. 

Last week, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) expressed concern over the number of deaths in prisons and lock-ups. 

In its 342-page Annual Report 2003, which was distributed to MPs in Parliament on June 1, Suhakam noted that 425 prison inmates died between 2002 and last July. It was reported in Parliament last year that 16 detainees died in police lock-ups in 2002. 

CID director Comm Musa Hassan

In the first seven months of last year, seven died in lock-ups – two in Selangor and one each in Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Kelantan and Perak. The other death was at a detention depot in Negri Sembilan. 

Federal CID director Comm Datuk Musa Hassan said police would now investigate “no matter where the deaths occurred” as long as the detainee was under police supervision. 

“Whether the death occurs in a lock-up or when the detainee is being transported to and from the court or in the compound of a police station, we are now instructed to conduct and complete the investigations within a month,” he said. 

He said investigations into suspected suicides and deaths through illnesses would be completed within two months. 

“Cases of suicides and death from illness are classified as sudden death reports. However, if our investigations show otherwise, we will probe deeper,” Comm Musa said.  

“We want to be transparent about this as we do not want the public to complain and accuse us of police brutality,” he added. 

Comm Musa said the initiatives were taken to restore public confidence in the police, especially in the lock-up system. 

“There have always been complaints by families of detainees, members of the public and the detainees themselves, alleging that they were assaulted while in our custody. 

“In some cases, policemen were also accused of beating them to death,” he said. 

Comm Musa said only through holding an inquest could the courts determine what actually happened. 

He said an inquest would be conducted for every detainee's death while in custody. 

He said illness was the most common cause of death among detainees, adding that police would submit such cases to an open court so that everyone could be represented.  

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