Police initiatives lauded by human rights activists

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 10 Jun 2004

PETALING JAYA: Human rights activists lauded the initiative to investigate all deaths of detainees and hold inquests but urged police to take more effort in preventing the deaths from occurring. 

Suara Rakyat Malaysia co-ordinator on police powers, S. Arutchelvam, said the holding of inquests would make the investigations transparent. 

He said that in previous investigations many people had doubts, raising questions about fairness. 

“Most of the cases arise from harassment and assault when the victim is in remand,” he said. 

“According to our records, only three inquiries into deaths in custody has been called since 2002 despite there being at least 20 deaths in lock-ups,” he said, adding that the three inquests were faced with constant delays. 

He was commenting on a statement by Federal CID director Comm Datuk Musa Hassan, who said police would now investigate “no matter where the deaths occurred” as long as the detainee was under police supervision. 

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

National Human Rights Society secretary-general Elizabeth Wong said it was a “good first step” but hoped it would not stop there. 

“Mandatory inquests which we have been calling for is a way to institute a form of check and balance to the detention system,” she said. 

She said what was also needed was a change in the attitude of the police towards remand prisoners, who were entitled to basic rights such as food, clean surroundings and legal counselling. 

“We should prevent these incidents from happening in the first place,” she said. 

In Klang, the Police Watch and Human Rights group urged police to probe the deaths of seven detainees since 2002. 

“There is no need for the police to wait for the next death to initiate their transparency move. Just check the files and they can see seven cases awaiting investigations. 

“The families of these detainees deserve to know why their sons – healthy young men when arrested – died while under the custody of the police,” said its committee member M. Manoharan. 

“We have brought the suspicious deaths of detainees to the attention of the police, but the authorities involved were not helpful in keeping communication lines open with the families or the lawyers,” he added. 

Manoharan also called on the authorities to initiate an inquest into the death of S. Rajupathy, a 19-year-old who died in the Sepang police station in 2002. 

The official cause of death was asthma, but Rajupathy'sfamily claimed that the deceased never had any history of severe respiratory problems.  

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