News | Suaram disputes home minister’s data on custodial deaths

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) today disputed the number of death-in-custody cases reported by home minister Hamzah Zainudin, saying the total number of the deaths reported was incorrect.

This comes after Hamzah, in an oral reply to a question from Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim on Sept 15, told the Dewan Rakyat that for the year 2021 up to the month of August, there were six deaths in police lockups.

The racial composition of the deaths was as follows: two persons of Malay ethnicity in Perak and Johor, two persons of Chinese ethnicity in Pulau Pinang and Kuala Lumpur, one person of Indian ethnicity in Melaka and one foreign national in Sabah.

However, Suaram called into question the data put forward by the ministry, saying there were at least seven deaths in police custody, with four persons of Malay ethnicity, two of Indian ethnicity, and one case where the identity of the victim could not be determined.

“We are confused as to how the ministry came up with the number of custodial deaths.

“This is because, based on the given answer, the stated amount does not include a number of deaths that are evidently instances of deaths in custody,” Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said in a statement, citing the deaths of Sivabalan Subramaniam and Umar Faruq who were not included in the total number of deaths-in-custody report.

Further, Sevan said this also raises the question of how the ministry defines cases that are “death-in-custody”.

“Why were the deaths of Sivabalan who clearly died in less than an hour after his arrest as well as that of Umar Faruq who died at the Klang Selatan district police headquarters not considered as deaths in custody?

“Does the ministry only view deaths that occur in the police lock-up as deaths in custody? If so, this is clearly a contradiction with the definition of deaths in custody as is understood by multiple parties,” Sevan said.

He said, according to the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) United Kingdom, death-in-custody are deaths that occur while a person is arrested or brought to a detention facility, including the deaths of an arrested person or those that occur following an arrest.

“These deaths can occur at police premises, private or medical premises, in a public premise, in a vehicle belonging to the police or anyone else.

“Thus, this definition includes the deaths of persons from the moment of arrest, during transportation to a detention facility or hospital, and while they are still under arrest, regardless of the location.

“Going by the definition from IPCC UK, the death of A Ghanapathy following his arrest by Gombak district police headquarters should be categorised as a death in police custody too,” he said.

Sevan added that this was based on the fact that despite Ghanapathy having been admitted to a public medical facility, he sustained injuries while in police custody.

He called for the home ministry to adopt international standards to redefine death-in-custody cases.

“It is exceedingly clear from the total deaths listed in the oral reply mentioned above, that many deaths in custody recorded by Suaram are not considered to be deaths in custody.

“This is not just a shallow interpretation but also another tactic to misrepresent the number of deaths in custody as being on the decline despite many deaths in custody not being recorded due to them not occurring solely in police lock-ups. – FMT

kredit foto: ThirdForce

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