Why the hush on probe into custodial deaths? – Kasthuri Patto

File pix of Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, Kasthuri Patto.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 – Another custodial death was reported today, bringing the number of custodial deaths to seven in the country since the start of this year.

A 35-year-old man who had been detained for drug possession at a police station in Klang was found dead Thursday morning, the police said.

Bukit Aman integrity and standards compliance department director Azri Ahmad said the man was found unconscious at 6.50am at the Pandamaran police station and was declared dead at 7.30am.

The case is being investigated, he said.

This follows another custodial death reported yesterday – that of a 38-year-old detainee who died in a Kuantan,Pahang police station.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued here today, Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and International Secretary of DAP Women Kasthuri Patto raised an alarm on the death of “one person in police custody every six days”, calling it a frightful rate.

“Only 34 days into the new year 2022 and Malaysia has been plagued by 6 deaths (excluding the latest incident) of men who were under the protection of the Royal Malaysian Police in lock-ups.
“In 2020, 13 men died in police custody whereas 6 died for the first 8 months of 2021.”
The MP lamented that despite such a high rate of custodial deaths, there has not been much assurance from the Inspector General of Police, the Home Minister or the Prime Minister on ensuring justice for the families of those who had died in police custody.

“How many investigations have been conducted by the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance which was formed under former IGP Khalid Abu Bakar in 2013?”

She said that after nine years of its existence to monitor from within and ensure that any wrong doings or abuse of power by police can be kept at a minimal, custodial deaths were still happening.

“The number of custodial deaths is hardly at a minimal and worse, a severe absence of commitment and drive to zero-rise custodial deaths. The newly formed Criminal Investigation Unit on Deaths in Custody in December 2021, parked under PDRM’s Integrity and Standards Compliance Department must be having its hands full in dealing with 6 deaths in custody this year alone.
“And yet not a single whisper on the findings of the investigation on these deaths in custody,” she said.
Citing an analysis by Malaysiakini, she said there has also been a severe deficiency in the reporting of deaths in custody with only one in 4 cases making news.

The analysis, based on data collected by human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) from Parliamentary answers by the Home Ministry, did not reflect the number of cases that were reported in the media, and neither did it reflect the ethnicity of the victims of custodial deaths.

“For example, from 2002 till 2016, there were 257 custodial deaths but only 62 reported in the media, and mostly of Indian ethnicity whereas the reality was that more Malay men were dying in police lock-ups.
“Given this scenario, could there possibly be far more custodial deaths in our Malaysian police lock-ups in the first 34 days of 2022?”
To date there are numerous Government agencies and departments that investigate, overlook, set standards and monitor custodial deaths – the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance and the Criminal Investigation Unit on Deaths in Custody amongst others.
“Where is the report and findings of the investigations by the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance?

“Where is the report by the EAIC?”

Kasthuri urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri to instruct the Inspector General of Police as well as the Commissioner of the EAIC to prepare a report on the investigations and findings of custodial deaths from the time the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance was formed.

She also called on the reports to be tabled in Parliament for all Members of Parliament in the coming Parliament sitting on the 28th of February continuing for 6 weeks.

With Malaysia having a seat at the UN Human Rights Council, it must show it is committed to protecting and defending human rights and account for each of the death that took place while in the care of police.