It is indeed shocking that that over the years, the number of deaths in police custody has been increasing, and not decreasing, observes Charles Hector.
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture), on the occasion of the International Day against Torture, that falls on 26 June 2009, noting that Malaysia still has a deploring record of reported incidences of torture and deaths in custody, reiterates the call for Malaysian to immediately ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to immediately establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police, and do all other things necessary to make Malaysia torture-free.
Torture, as defined by The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is “…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity…”
Whilst acknowledging that there are many forms of torture perpetrated by different parties, we focus our attention in this statement to torture and deaths in police custody. The denial of health care and medication, as seen in the case of Lourdes Mary, the diabetic with a swollen leg who collapsed in court after not being given her insulin whilst detained in the police lock-up (Malaysiakini, The Star, 24 October 2008), is also torture.
With regard to deaths in police custody, it is indeed shocking that that over the years, the numbers have been increasing, and not decreasing.
Relying merely on data provided by the government, it has been disclosed that there have been 150 deaths from 1990 until 2004 (10.7 per year), 108 deaths between 2000 and 2006 (18 per year), and, 85 deaths between 2003 and 2007 (21.25 per year).
In Malaysia, from 1990 till September 2004, “a total of 1,583 deaths among prisoners were recorded in 28 prisons nationwide, with the highest number in 2003 when 279 inmates died. During the same period, 150 detainees died in police lock-ups or custody…” (Malaysiakini, 7 February 2005).
“…Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi… revealed that 108 deaths occurred during police custody between 2000 and 2006…” (Malaysiakini, 23 April 2007).
“…There were 85 deaths recorded in police lock-ups during the 2003-2007…” (Bernama, 8 July 2008).
The Malaysian police’s tendency to lie, exemplified in the case when the Inspector General of Police physically assaulted a handcuffed and blindfolded Anwar Ibrahim, which resulted in that infamous black eye, must end. Initial reaction of the police was denial, and the then Prime Minister even went so far as to suggest the possibility that the black-eye was self-inflicted. Much later, it was proven that it was the head of police himself that tortured the detainee.
In the case of 22 year old Kugan Ananthan, who died on 20 January 2008 at the USJ Taipan police station, the police requested a post-mortem, and it concluded that Kugan died from fluid accumulation in his lungs. Dissatisfied with the results, Kugan’s family requested a second post-mortem, which was done by the University Malaya Medical Centre’s (UMMC) pathologist, Dr Prashant N Samberkar, who gave the provisional cause of death (pending toxicology) as acute renal failure due to rhbdomyolysis due to blunt trauma to skeletal muscles. But, before the specimens could be sent for toxicology tests, they were confiscated by the police from the pathologist. Photos taken from the second post-mortem report showed that Kugan suffered from massive internal bleeding due to repeated beatings. There were also burnt marks on the body of the victim (Malaysiakini, 4 March 2009, 8 April 2009).
Pathologists/doctors and public servants must act in the interest of justice and truth, and stop coming out with reports that are meant to ‘protect’ the police, that is reports that give the impression that death was caused by reasons other than police actions and/or omissions.
In another reported case, a wireman, A Gnanapragasam, 53, was arrested on 10 June and died a few days later in police custody. The widow, M Manimatalai, 40, said she suspected foul play as when she last met him on Friday, he had a bruise on his right eye. “I saw that he had a black eye. I was also informed that when he was brought before a Petaling Jaya magistrate for a remand order, he had apparently told the magistrate that he was being beaten and mistreated by the police while in custody,” said the saleswoman and mother of six. (The Star, 15 June 2009). This case also highlights our concern about the indifference of some magistrates and courts to complaints of police brutality.
In terms of torture, there have been too many incidences of torture in Malaysia, and some examples are as follows:-
- the case of a 27-year-old man and 18-year-old teenager being allegedly scalded with hot water at the Brickfields police district headquarters in December 2008 (Malaysiakini, 15 January 2009);
- a current Member of Parliament, a lawyer and a lay person accidentally “… saw a detainee being tortured by policemen at the Banting police headquarters last Friday. They claimed that the man, in his 20s, was gagged with white tape and his hands bound behind his back… the abuse had taken place during interrogation in a CID room…” (Malay Mail, 9 November 2005);
- when two female detainees were allegedly raped by police officers at the Ampang police lock-up (Malay Mail, Tuesday, 12 March 2002, The Star, Tuesday, 14 March 2002);
- Complaints from a trailer driver who was allegedly forced to drink his own urine and had crushed chilli padi rubbed on his private part while under detention at the Jasin police lock-up (The Star, Friday, 1 February 2002).
Getting suspects to confess was perceived as the main reason behind torture in police custody, but Malaysia has amended the Criminal Procedure Code, which does not allow the prosecution to use anymore statements made by accused during the course of a police investigation. Despite, the fact that this law has been in force since 7 September 2007, we note sadly that there are still allegations of police torturing persons in their custody.
The police have apparently also installed close-circuit television (CCTV) systems in police stations, but alas, without recording capabilities, it is not of much use. MADPET calls for CCTV with audio/video recording capabilities to be installed at all police stations and other places to help end torture by the police. In Hong Kong, as a matter of right, copies of video recordings of the accused in police custody are given to the lawyer to prove that there was no torture and that all was done in accordance with the law. Malaysia should emulate this.
MADPET reiterates its call for a torture-free Malaysia
for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
26 June 2009