Monday, October 3, 2016

Can Khalid Abu Bakar solve custodial death in Malaysia or his sandiwara

The Malaysian Bar welcomes the announcement that the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, will head a special committee established to take measures to prevent deaths in police lockups, which will implement frequent visits by doctors and also visits by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (“SUHAKAM”) Commissioners.  Such measures provide some assurance of the level of seriousness being accorded to the grave issue of deaths in police custody. the protocol prescribed under the Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (“YBGK”) scheme, which is an initiative made possible by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, and supported by the Government, does not appear to have been complied with by the police.  The guidelines for enforcement officers stipulate that as soon as an arrest has been made, and before the suspect is questioned, the police officer must inform the suspect’s family (or friend) of the arrest, and must also provide details of the suspect and the arrest to YBGK, who will then despatch a lawyer to offer legal representation to the arrested person.

The present state of affairs has led to much public outrage and an erosion of confidence in the police.  The police must be proactive in ensuring that the wrongful actions of some amongst them do not tarnish the standing of the whole force.  Unless this is addressed, the police force will unfortunately remain a diminished institution in the eyes of the public.

The Malaysian Bar is dismayed and saddened by the news of yet another death in police custody, involving  Azri Mohamed,

The body of Azri Mohamed, who died while in police custody about two weeks ago, arrived today at the Kuala Lumpur hospital from Kota Baru for a second post-mortem.

The family’s lawyer Raul Lee Bhaskaran told Malaysiakini that they have met with the team of doctors this afternoon. is tragic and inexcusable.  It is yet another incident that raises serious questions about the treatment and safety of detainees in police custody, and the methods of interrogation used.  It underscores the importance of the requirement for those in police custody to have immediate access to legal counsel upon arrest. The unabated deaths in police custody reinforce the Malaysian Bar’s repeated calls for the Government to implement the recommendation of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police, in its report published in May 2005, for the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (“IPCMC”) to function as an independent and external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel.

It is untenable for the Government to continue to ignore the dire need for the IPCMC, in the face of continuing cases of deaths in police custodyThe findings point to several police personnel including senior police officers being involved, not least in a conspiracy to cover up police responsibility for his death. This is completely unacceptable and the perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions.

The report details the extensive violations of existing rules and regulations that characterised this case, including:the use of brutal violence on a detainee during interrogation,false entries into the station diary of lockup D9, including tampering of times in the entries,
false information in a police report about the death of the deceased,
serious misconduct in ordering the re-arrest of the deceased without justification (the deceased should have been released at the end of the first remand),an eight-day delay in allowing the right of the deceased to contact and have access to his family,
the CCTV in lockup D9 not being in working order since 2009,
a lack of knowledge or awareness of standard operating procedures among officers and police personnel, and
overcrowding in the lockup (more than four people). At times, there were between six and 16 people in the lockup.
The lack of integrity, respect or even knowledge of rules and procedures shown by certain police personnel is shocking and has to be dealt with by the authorities if we are to have any confidence in the system.
 Azri Mohamed death in custody is not an isolated incident. It is yet another example which leaves Malaysians wondering about what really goes on in lockups or interrogation sessions during remand. Malaysians cannot be blamed if we are asking why rules and regulations are not adhered to and why some police officers can apparently behave like thugs and not be brought to justice.

We should have a police force which we are proud of, not one which leaves us shaking our heads in despair. The current situation and public perception about the police force does a great injustice to the police officers who work hard and are themselves law abiding.

The home ministry must work with the Royal Malaysian Police to reign in rogue police officers. These police officers must be investigated, charged, convicted and imprisoned if we are to see an end to deaths in police custody.

Strong recommendations have been made by the EAIC concerning the treatment of detainees, facilities in lockups and the need for police training and adherence to standard operating procedures – not only in Dharmendran’s case but also in their investigations into other deaths in custody. It is high time the home ministry take stock of these recommendations and ensure their implementation.

As a sign of a commitment towards ending deaths in custody, be they in police lockups, detention centres or prisons, the Malaysian government would do well to also ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

This treaty outlines specific measures for governments to take in order to prevent any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment within its borders.

It is obvious that the government needs some heavy prodding to move in this direction – to change the present culture in the police force where some police officers can act with chilling impunity. This culture has to be challenged if we are to provide the basic right to protection for all and bring an end to deaths in police custody

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