KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 ― The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said several agencies reported as many as 456 deaths in their custody for 2020, the majority of which involved prisoners.

According to Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph, the Prison Department reported 363 deaths, followed by the Immigration Department (50), police (34), and the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK) that reported nine.

“Health factors were still listed as the main cause of death.

“In 2020, Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to the number of deaths,” he said in a press conference today.

Jerald said Suhakam has reiterated its suggestion for the Ministry of Health to establish a Custodial Health Unit to have a specific role to manage health services in detention centres.

Suhakam Commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai also called for the government to implement a law as proposed by the Bar Council to empower inquiries into such custodial deaths.

“One death in custody is one too many. If the coroner rules it as natural causes, it will be acceptable but if anything other than it, it should not be happening,” he said.