Lawyers group: Police not serious in tackling lockup deaths

Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen claimed the lack of prosecution or conviction in past custodial death cases proved that the authorities are not serious in wanting to tackle the problem. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen claimed the lack of prosecution or conviction in past custodial death cases proved that the authorities are not serious in wanting to tackle the problem. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Following the death of yet another detainee in police custody today, a lawyers group alleged the authorities have done little to improve its procedures to prevent detainees from dying in lockups.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) director Eric Paulsen claimed the lack of prosecution or conviction in past custodial death cases proved that the authorities are not serious in wanting to tackle the problem.

“At the root cause of deaths in custody is the lack of seriousness of PDRM and the government in tackling custodial deaths,” Paulsen told Malay Mail Online.

“How many deaths in custody over the last decade and how many policemen are actually prosecuted, sacked or disciplined?” he added.

Just two weeks after a man died at a police station in Klang, another detainee was found dead in a police lockup in Hulu Selangor early morning yesterday.

Thanaseelan Muniandy, 43, was found unconscious in his cell at 1.50am Saturday at the Bukit Sentosa police station, just several hours after the police brought him to the Kuala Kubu Baru hospital to treat his stomach pain.

Paulsen said despite several inquests pointing criminality and police involvement in the past custodial death cases, no action has been taken against the officer.

“We have had positive verdicts in several inquests, pointing to criminality of the policemen involved, or at the very least breach of the Lockup Rules & IGSO, and yet little or no action is taken.

“See inquest verdicts of Sugumar, Chandran and Karuna Nithi,” he said, referring to the past three cases where the courts found police responsible for the deaths of the three men.

The LFL director also blamed the problem on the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC). 

Paulsen alleged the AGC had in many instances acted against the interest of justice by attempting to reverse an inquest’s findings in the Karuna Nithi case.

“Questions must also be asked about the AGC — why are they not taking custodial deaths seriously?

“For example, in Karuna Nithi [sic], instead of acting on the positive inquest verdict, the AGC is seeking to overturn the verdict. Surely the AGC is not acting in the public interest by seeking to appeal against the Coroner’s verdict?” He said.

Just four days ago the AGC filed a revision in the Seremban High Court to overturn the verdict of a coroner who held that a detainee died due to assault by police and other inmates.

Paulsen is the lawyer representing P Karuna Nithi’s family.

Police said today the body of Thanaseelan has been sent to the Sungai Buloh Hospital for post-mortem.

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