Suhakam has no legal power to probe custodial deaths, says NGO

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) should stop inquiring into custodial deaths as the matter does not come under its purview, a non-governmental organisation says.

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT) chairman M Visvanathan said Suhakam was set up pursuant to a law passed by Parliament for the purpose of protecting and promoting human rights in Malaysia.

“It can only hold inquiries on complaints of human rights infringements at its own initiative or on complaints lodged by the aggrieved persons,” he said.

For example, he said, Suhakam could investigate if an unhealthy detainee died because no timely medical assistance was provided.

He said Section 12(2) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act states that the commission shall not inquire into any complaint when a matter was before a judicial inquiry.

Further, he said, investigations into custodial deaths were solely within the purview and functions of the coroner’s court under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Visvanathan, who is a lawyer, said this in response to Suhakam’s findings released yesterday into several issues involving deaths in police lock-ups and detention centres.

In the case of G Jestus Kevin, who was found dead in a Bentong police station lock-up last year, the report said the victim succumbed to meningoencephalitis (brain inflammation) with multiple blunt force trauma.

Kevin, 30, was nabbed on April 2 for alleged theft and was found dead on April 5.

Suhakam said the medical report showed that he suffered many injuries, including a broken rib.

“A fellow inmate had testified that the deceased was tied with a blanket and beaten by other inmates and a police officer. This has also been confirmed through CCTV footage of the lock-up,” Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph said at a online press conference.

Visvanathan, who is representing Kevin’s family in an ongoing inquest in Kuantan, said he has also sent a letter to Suhakam.

He said only a coroner, after a court inquiry, could determine why, when and under what circumstances a detainee died in a police lock-up, prison or a mental asylum.

“The inquest finding is subject to review by the High Court and the victim’s family can also rely on the coroner’s verdict to sue the government for negligence,” he said, adding that Suhakam’s report had no legal effect.

Free Malaysia Today

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