Another custodial death in Penang: Who will take responsibility?

Aliran members were among those who protested outside the central lock-up in Bayan Baru on Mother's Day 2014

We refer to the report that a 63-year-old African under remand for a drugs hearing died at Penang Hospital yesterday due to heart complications.

Aliran members were among those who protested outside the central lock-up in Bayan Baru on Mother's Day 2014
Aliran members were among those who protested outside the central lock-up in Bayan Baru on Mother’s Day 2014

This is the first custodial death case reported in 2015 in Penang and the second case in Malaysia. The first concerned a 31-year-old Indian man who was being detained in the Ayer Molek lockup, Johor.

According to the information to which we have access, there were nine cases of deaths in custody in Penang in 2014. Eight of these deaths occurred directly or indirectly in police lockups in Penang, with one death in Penang jail. In the whole of Malaysia there were, as far as we know, 14 deaths in custody, making Penang easily the state with the highest figure. There may well be other cases that have not come to light.

Enough is enough. Each death is a travesty and tragedy for the persons concerned and their families. We have been highlighting the all too regular occurrence of custodial deaths for many years but little seems to have changed. The police should be protecting the public; no one should be dying in police stations especially not in contentious circumstances. It is time to put a stop to this. So we would reiterate our call to the Penang CPO to urgently and without fear or favour:

  • Investigate the circumstances of each of these deaths, through thorough investigation into who was on duty, the specifics of what happened, and identify those responsible for causing the deaths;
  • File charges against those police officers who are found to have transgressed their duties and were involved in causing the deaths of those under their protection;
  • Provide full accounting to the families of the deceased and to the public, concerning the circumstances and steps taken to bring to justice those responsible, for all the custodial death cases in 2014;
  • Ensure all police officials are thoroughly conversant with the stipulations and procedures set out under the Lockup Rules 1958, and that every police officer complies to these, failing which disciplinary action will be taken;
  • Outline clearly what steps are now being taken to ensure no further custodial deaths will happen in Penang.
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Suaram Penang office

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