Police call up activists over ‘Black Thursday’ gathering to honour those who died in custody

Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan at Malaysia’s Custodial Death Black Thursday gathering in Kuala Lumpur, July 16, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan at Malaysia’s Custodial Death Black Thursday gathering in Kuala Lumpur, July 16, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — The police have summoned several individuals involved in last Thursday’s “Malaysia’s Custodial Death Black Thursday” event held to honour and remember those who died in police custody.

Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan posted on his Facebook page the letter of summons he received from the police to give his statement regarding the gathering.

The trio, which also include activists Rama Ramanathan and Khalid Ismath from civil society group Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody (EDICT), will be giving their statements tomorrow morning at 11am at Dang Wangi Police Station.

Despite initially getting permission to organise the gathering from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), the police still revoked the permission from EDICT. The activists defied that order and proceeded with the gathering.

EDICT, in a statement, said police had claimed that the notice it submitted for the event in accordance with the Public Assembly Act was incomplete because it was not accompanied by a consent notice from DBKL, who is named as the custodian of the area where the event was to take place later.

They argued that the word “custodian” does not mean “owner”. As such, a DBKL official and the police advised them to approach the mayor or the Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa to get permission because DBKL has no process to deal with such requests. 

The police also insisted that the National Security Council has prohibited gatherings such as this.

According to EDICT, 176 persons have died in police lockups, while 550 persons have died in immigration detention centres and 2,838 persons have died in prisons since 2009.

EDICT said when a person dies under the custody of the police or in a psychiatric hospital or prison, Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code require magistrates or judges to conduct inquests to determine whether any unlawful acts or omissions contributed to the deaths but pointed out that that there is no such provision for those who die in immigration detention centres.

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