KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Human rights watchdog Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) in its report released today said a total of 21 deaths in police custody were recorded by the Criminal Investigation Unit on Deaths in Custody (USJKT) this year.
Its Human Rights Overview Report on Malaysia 2022 also recorded 10 cases of police officers discharging their firearms while on duty, which resulted in four deaths .
"Custodial deaths in Malaysia remain high in 2022 and information surrounding their information are often limited,” its report said.
The group also highlighted that information relating to the process and outcome of the investigation of each death in custody has not been forthcoming, impeding the civil society’s attempts to help the families’ demand for an inquest or legal counsel.
"When the victim’s name is not revealed, it makes the task of civil society to locate and identify the victims’ family nigh impossible,” said Suaram.
It added that out of the 19 cases that were investigated by USJKT, only one case led to the prosecution of two police officers and two detainees for voluntarily causing hurt.
"Whereas the public received little update on the other 17 cases, only one of these cases has been referred to the coroner while the rest are still under investigation," it said.
USJKT, a unit formed under the Home Ministry to investigate custodial deaths due to public outcry, had revealed earlier in July 2022 Parliament sitting that 15 deaths were related to Covid-19 and other health diseases, while the cause of five other remaining deaths is still under investigations.
On the incidents of police shootings this year, Suaram recorded a total of 10 cases involving 23 unnamed people and resulting in four deaths.
"Suaram monitored incidents of officers of police discharging their firearms while on duty whenever these are reported.
"Our documentation noted 10 such cases in 2022 with four deaths attributed to such police shootings,” said Suaram.
On another note, the group also recorded an alarming 693 deaths in prisons, including 154 deaths in Sabah’s immigration detention centres from January 2021 to July 2022, based on the data provided by the Home Ministry.
It said that physical violence inflicted upon detainees under remands or during investigations is hard to be ascertained because detainees are locked away until their court appearances and threatened with further violence if they revealed what had happened to them.
"Kim Shih Keat was found unconscious on the last day of his detention and was later pronounced dead by Klang Hospital.
"His body was found to have bruise marks and scratch marks on different parts of his body but the prison officers argued that Shih Keat’s physical injuries were self-inflicted because of his attempt to climb the prison wall.
"There was no attempt to produce an independent forensic pathology report to support the claims made by prison officials,” said Suaram.