Another death has occurred while in the custody of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). The Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy condemns the third custodial death case at the MACC.
We are gravely disappointed that there is still a lack of meaningful reform after the death of Teh Beng Hock under the MACC and would like to emphasise the importance of the safeguards and rights of the detainees.
The victim was arrested by the MACC and believed to be a suspect that was involved in illegal mining in Pahang. According to reports, the victim was sent to the Putrajaya Hospital by the MACC when he was found to be feeling ill.
However, according to the chief commissioner of the MACC, Azam Baki, the victim passed away while receiving treatment in the hospital.
Firstly, we strongly believe that the MACC chief is not in a legal position to attempt to give an explanation to the incident or hastily conclude the cause of death; it should have been the duty of the police and the coroners’ court to establish the truth behind the case to ensure full transparency.
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Most of all, as the chief of the MACC, any explanation from Azam on a death that happened under his supervision should not be taken as conclusive evidence, in the name of impartiality. Echoing the views of Lawyers for Liberty, we therefore form the conclusion that the MACC chief had “no business rushing into conclusions or explaining the cause of death”.
Secondly, whenever a death in custody occurs, we also notice that enforcement officials have the tendency to push the ‘responsibility’ to the hospital. The language that Azam has employed – where MACC officials first found the victim to be unwell and subsequently passed away in hospital – is too similar in the numerous deaths that occurred in police custody. The causal explanation where the detainee has passed away while receiving treatment does not do justice to the family and would cause the public to lose confidence in the MACC.
Given that there were two custodial death cases at the MACC in the past 14 years – Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbani – and the conclusion of the Court of Appeal that there was a pre-fall injury on the neck of Teoh and one or more unknown persons caused his death, the police must conduct a thorough investigation on the new custodial death case, including from the angle of torture leading to death. The police must not be misled by Azam that the decreased died of natural sickness.
For the public to continue having faith in the MACC, the investigations must be impartial and transparent to uncover the truth behind. Justice must also be done: firm action needs to be taken if there was foul play involved behind the latest death under MACC supervision.
While the MACC has recently shown to be fearless in performing its anti-corruption duty – action has been taken even against a former prime minister – it still falls behind in observing and respecting the rights of detainees. We are shocked to hear from MACC deputy director Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin that the right to legal representation does not apply to those that were summoned by the MACC as witnesses.
Lest we forget, this is the same excuse that was employed by MACC officials previously when they refused Teon Beng Hock’s request for legal representation. Teoh’s tragic death should be a lesson and opportunity for the MACC to revise its standard operating procedure and ensure the rights of legal representation are observed, to protect both the detainee and the public faith towards the MACC. Even after 14 years, the MACC has still refused to acknowledge, never mind reform, this practice, which contravenes the Federal Constitution.
We demand that the PH-led “unity government” seriously consider reforming the MACC and ensuring its anti-corruption crusade does not run afoul of human rights principles. The right to legal representation and freedom from torture must be guaranteed; officers violating the rights of detainees must be brought to justice.
More urgently, justice must be done and seen to be done; the police must investigate the truth behind the latest death in custody under the MACC, and action must be taken if there was foul play behind the incident.
The culture of impunity of the MACC can only be eliminated when the government takes bold action on previous cases of custodial deaths at at the MACC, including the deaths of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sabarni, and prosecute the related officers in accordance with the law. – Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy