Malaysian Bar calls for inquest into Nigerian student's death in detention

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has called for an inquest into the death of a Nigerian doctorate student at an Immigration Department depot in Kuala Lumpur.

Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, 33, is believed to have died from seizure while asleep at the Immigration detention depot in Bukit Jalil on July 9.

Malaysian Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said one death in custody was one too many.

"It matters not whether the person is a citizen or non-citizen. However way we view the matter, a human life has been lost.

"In addition, every death in custody tarnishes the image of the enforcement agency involved and the entire country," he said in a statement on Tuesday (July 16).

Abdul Fareed said everyone bore the collective shame from deaths resulting from detention or enforcement by government agencies.

He said the Malaysian Bar urged the government to expeditiously conduct an inquest into Ewansiha's death and to determine if his death was accelerated by any unlawful act.

"No enforcement agencies should seek to absolve itself of any wrongdoing merely on the basis that the person who died in custody was not subjected to physical abuse.

"The detaining authority owes a duty of care to each and every person that they arrest and detain," he said, adding that the detaining authority had to ensure that the detained person was sufficiently monitored and that nothing untoward happened during the period of detention.

Abdul Fareed said the onus of showing that the discharge of such duty of care was upon the enforcement agency.

"The issue of exoneration will be for the courts to determine.

"No stone should be left unturned to uncover the circumstances that led to Ewansiha's death, so as to prevent the occurrence of any further deaths in custody," he said.

He also called upon the government to adopt and comply with the United Nations' Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, with regard to the operation of all detention centres in Malaysia, including immigration detention centres and prisons.

"In light of this tragic incident, the time has come to do away with archaic provisions that entrench discrimination against foreigners in our Federal Constitution," he said.

Abdul Fareed said the Malaysian Bar calls on the government to immediately introduce a Bill in Parliament to remove the second proviso in Article 5(4) of the Federal Constitution.

"The provision which allows non-citizens to be detained for up to 14 days for an immigration-related offence before being produced before a magistrate is repugnant to natural justice and unacceptable in this modern day and age.

"All it does is to prevent the courts from having immediate oversight and supervision of immigration-related detained persons.

"A 14-day period to verify someone's citizenship status may have made sense in 1957, but not in 2019," he said.

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