Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) applauds the swift responsibility taken by the home minister on the unfortunate 5 March incident involving the wrongful communication of the supposed death of the detainee to his family.
The initiative to personally reimburse the funeral expenses borne by the family within 48 hours is a gesture of concern that must be recognised. The minister’s acknowledgement that there were elements of negligence involved and notification that a committee will be set up to investigate further also demonstrate the Ministry of Home Affairs’ commitment towards accountable governance.
To ensure that this commitment comes full circle, it is crucial that the ministry provides regular and transparent updates on the committee’s investigation findings, specifically any gaps found in the prison’s identification process and its implementation, as well as corresponding recommendations. Any recommendations by the committee should be swiftly followed by responsive action by the relevant stakeholders (eg Ministry of Home Affairs and Prisons Department) to ensure that such an egregious oversight does not happen again.
Suaram also calls on the Attorney General’s Chambers to direct the magistrate or coroner to hold an inquiry or inquest into the cause of death of the detainee as mandated in Sections 334 and 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code without undue delay. The inquiry should be carried out transparently and impartially.
The inquiry can insightfully inform not only the government’s understanding of underlying factors that perpetuate deaths in custody but also the policies and interventions that should be developed or improved on. It can also build public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system, as the inquiry sends a message that the government is committed to protecting rights and ensuring justice for all, including the most marginalised groups such as victims of deaths in custody.
Suaram will continue to closely monitor developments of this case, and we stand ready to provide our full and unequivocal support to the families of both detainees whenever needed. – Suaram
Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of human rights group Suaram
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