KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — Officers at the North Klang police headquarters had shown a disregard for due process and lockup rules, a team from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) found in its preliminary investigation into the custodial death of S. Bala Murugan.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said today a four-man team led by Commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai that had visited the site where the 44-year-old detainee had died last week under questionable circumstances.
“Suhakam notes that the deceased was detained in a place which is not a gazetted place of lock up, and an application for extension of remand to the Magistrate by the police was rejected.
“Suhakam’s preliminary observations indicate due process violations, and disregard for lock up rules,” he said in a statement.
He added that Bala remained in custody even after the magistrate ordered for his immediate release and as such died while under police care.
However, Razali noted that the police have denied any wrongdoing on their part and the post-mortem report is not yet available.
Bala who was self-employed in the tyre recycling business was reported to have died at the North Klang police headquarters last Wednesday, two days after his arrest with two other people for alleged robbery.
The Suhakam chairman said that its report on Deaths in Police Custody in 2016 had identified failures on the part of the police to strictly comply with existing lockup and standard operating procedures to minimise cases of custodial deaths.
He added that policies to prevent and hold accountable police use of torture and ill-treatment are inadequate and the authorities have delayed lockup reforms, which allowed such violations to continue with impunity.
He renewed the commission’s call for the government to follow the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by introducing the necessary laws, policy and administrative measures to effectively curb torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.
Razali added that Suhakam will continue its investigations into custodial deaths so the public will know the truth.
But he also promised to work with the police to improve public confidence in the institution and “to build a more rights-respecting force committed to the protection of the right to life, liberty and physical integrity”.