Alarming custodial deaths

IPOH, 13 March — A 47-year-old man bound for imprisonment was found dead in a police lockup in Kampar on 9 March, marking the fourth case of custodial deaths taking place in the country in the first quarter of 2013.

According to his family members, M Ragu, an odd-job worker from Malim Nawar near Kampar, was a “healthy man” when he surrendered to the police on 4 March.

Ragu was tried at the Kampar Magistrate Court on 8 March and should have been sent immediately to the Tapah prison to serve his ten-month jail term after the trial, but he was detained at the police lockup in Kampar instead.

The police informed Ragu’s family members about his death two days later. Citing a post mortem report by Ipoh’s Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital, Perak deputy police chief A Paramasivam later said that the death was caused by ‘pulmonary embolism’, or sudden blockage in one of the lung’s arteries.

Police need to be responsible
DAP National Vice Chairman M Kulasegaran, alongside local NGOs and DAP members visited the deceased’s family at the hospital mortuary on 11 March, demanding explanation from the police regarding the unprecedented death.

Kulasegaran also called for an immediate suspension of the police officers responsible.

“I urge the Inspector General of Police to form a high level independent committee to investigate the deaths in lock up until the IPCMC [Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission] is established,” the Ipoh Barat MP said.

Kulasegaran, also Member of Parliament for Ipoh Barat, stated that from 2000 to 2011, a total of 156 detainees died in police lockup, with “many more have died” last year.

“The last place for a person to die would be the lockup. Many a time detainees have died under mysterious circumstances. But many detainees died due to police brutality,” he said.

“Is it not right to expect the police to police themselves? Are they so undisciplined?”

Kulasegaran, himself a lawyer, also suggested that the detention in Kampar police lock up exceeds the jurisdiction of the police.

“They need to explain why he was detained here [in Kampar] and not sent to the Tapah prison,” he said.

Investigate the cases
Meanwhile, human rights organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) said cases of custodial deaths are occurring at an average of one person a month, calling on the authorities to “ensure an independent and impartial investigation” into all these cases and to “make the findings public”.

In a statement released by SUARAM on 12 March, the organization claimed that the police force and the judiciary “tend to respond swiftly to other cases of murder”, but upon dealing with cases of deaths under police custody, they “continue to fail.”

“This sends a chilling message to the public that these deaths do not account and that police personnel can operate above the law with impunity in this country,” said SUARAM person in charge of Police Accountability and Reform Desk, Theva Rajan.

Theva said that the Officer in Charge of the Police District (OCPD) in areas where these cases occurred must be held responsible as these deaths occurred under their supervision.

SUARAM once again publicise the list of deaths in custody so far in the country 2013:

14 January: Chang Chin Te – Died at the USJ8 Police Station, Subang Jaya

23 January: Sugumaran – Died while handcuffed on a street in Hulu Langat

1 February: Mohd Ropi – Died at the Sultan Ahmad Shah Hospital while under Temerloh police custody

10 March: M Ragu – Died at the Kampar Police Station

SUARAM also called on the police to “ensure accountability for the so-called ‘sudden deaths’ of the individuals”, adding that most of the victims were healthy before they were apprehended but lost their lives while under the responsibility of the police.

“The right to life is a ‘non-derogable right’ guaranteed in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),” Theva explained.

“However the cases above highlight how personnel from the Royal Police of Malaysia seem to have a lack of respect for this fundamental right and the value of human life.” — The Rocket

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