Time for concrete action on custodial deaths, group says after EAIC reports

LFL’s Eric Paulsen (pic) said there was no follow-up action from the police or the AGC, after the EAIC found last October that Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur’s 2014 death in custody in Johor was caused by police violence. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
LFL’s Eric Paulsen (pic) said there was no follow-up action from the police or the AGC, after the EAIC found last October that Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur’s 2014 death in custody in Johor was caused by police violence. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 ― The police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) must have the willpower to take action in cases of deaths in custody, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said after the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) released its third report on a custodial death yesterday.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen pointed out that there was no follow-up action from the police or the AGC, after the EAIC found last October that Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur’s 2014 death in custody in Johor was caused by police violence and recommended murder charges.

Yesterday, the EAIC released another report on a death in custody case, concluding that N. Dharmendran was tortured, with his ears stapled, and beaten to death by the police in 2013 when the 31-year-old man was detained at the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.

“Clearly, the burden is on the police and for the AG to make sure that swift action is taken against all these personnel,” Paulsen told Malay Mail Online.

“The police must be willing to take action against their own personnel. The AGC ― they must be willing to prosecute these police personnel.

“It's not to pass the duties to other groups like Suhakam and EAIC. That would mean the government, prime minister, deputy prime minister, Home Ministry ― they must ensure that the police and AGC do perform their duties to ensure there are follow up actions taken for these failures,” the human rights lawyer added.

The EAIC report on Dharmendran’s death also recommended charges against six police officers for allegedly falsifying and tampering with evidence, three of whom are among the four charged with the murder of Dharmendran. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said following the report’s release that several agencies and ministries will review Dharmendran’s case to see if legal action was necessary.

After the EAIC report on Syed Mohd Azlan’s death, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said last November that no police officer who is liable for criminal charges will be protected. But no one has been charged over the death of the 25-year-old man to date.

The EAIC’s first inquiry on deaths in custody, with the results announced in January 2015, found no element of misconduct or the use of physical violence in R. James Ramesh’s 2013 case, who had died in police custody in Penang.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), there were 255 cases of custodial deaths from 2000 to 2014, with 81 per cent of them due to health complications.

Suhakam also said in its report on deaths in detentions released this month that two-thirds of detainees with health problems it interviewed were denied medical attention, as the police did not believe that they were genuinely ill.

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