Suhakam, MoH to place doctors at centralised lockups in bid to reduce custodial deaths

Jerald visits the Ayer Molek police lockup in Johor Baru recently. — Picture by Suhakam
Jerald visits the Ayer Molek police lockup in Johor Baru recently. — Picture by Suhakam

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — Doctors will be placed at centralised lock-ups to provide round-the-clock healthcare services, and bring down the number of custodial deaths.

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) is currently working out the nuts and bolts of a plan to set up a Custodial Medical Unit (CMU).

Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph said the CMU would be set up in the Jinjang centralised lockup in KL first before it was extended to other places.

He said the main idea is for each and every detainee to be checked and verified by a doctor before they are processed and sent into lockups.

“This is a good prevention to reduce the number of death in custody cases due to torture or suspicion of the cause of death,” he told Malay Mail.

There are currently five centralised lockups nationwide – in Jinjang (Kuala Lumpur), Shah Alam (Selangor), Bayan Baru (Penang), Bandar Indera Mahkota (Pahang), and Kepayang (Sabah).

Jerald said many detainees who are brought to lockups are already suffering from existing illnesses, and if these ailments are determined before they are kept in police custody it would help towards preventing further issues.

This will make it easier to identify detainees who are unwell, he explained.

“This is specifically aimed at those who are under remand. When there are plans to get a remand order for the suspect, the first thing to do is to see the doctor,” he said.

Jerald revealed that the discussions started in the middle of last year and two meetings have taken place since then, and all parties appear keen to see the plan through.

“There will be another meeting next month. We hope we can iron out the details and work towards implementation soon,” he said.

When asked if doctors will be given the power to decide on whether sick detainees would be able to seek medical treatment in a hospital, Jerald said that has yet to be addressed.

“We are still discussing on that. Main thing is to create a record of each detainee,” he said.

The team of doctors placed at centralised lockups will also be responsible in handling detainees placed at nearby lockups.

 In July last year, in a written parliamentary reply the Home Minister revealed there were 292 deaths in police custody between 2000-2017 including eight cases in June last year.

Out of the 292 deaths in police lockups, two cases ― in 2009 and 2013 ― were attributed to injuries caused by the police, while the bulk of it was attributed to illnesses or medical conditions.

The latest case was last month where a despatch clerk G Ganeshwaran died in custody at the Shah Alam police lock-up.

The 29 year-old was arrested and remanded for alleged involvement in break-ins.

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