The judiciary must be more proactive in investigations of deaths in custody
1. Yesterday EDICT, in a statement, exposed another death in custody in Jinjang lockup. The deceased is a Nepali national, Mr. Dhan Bahdur.
2. In the statement, EDICT questioned whether it is true that the Kuala Lumpur coroner did not view the body of the deceased in-situ, as stipulated by the Criminal Procedure Code, section 330.
3. EDICT’s attention has been drawn to a Practice Directive effective 8 March 2019, issued by the then Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
4. In the directive, Malanjum stipulates, in section 7.1, that the coroner needs to view the body in-situ ONLY IF the investigating officer considers it necessary.
5. EDICT is shocked by that stipulation. We call upon the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia, Tuan Ahmad Terrirudin bin Mohd Salleh to advise whether that Directive is still in force. We recognize that if it is, all coroners are bound to abide by it.
6. In Malaysia, on average, 16 persons die every year in police custody (as revealed in Parliament by the Home Minister on 30 March 2017).
7. Malaysian courts have repeatedly found the police culpable for deaths in custody and have awarded millions of Ringgit in damages and costs to “send a message” to the police that deaths in custody are not acceptable.
8. Malaysian courts have repeatedly found that (police) investigating officers fail to conduct credible investigations of deaths in custody.
9. Against that background, it is dreadful that the Inspector General of Police and the government think that a police officer can decide whether or not to involve coroners.
10. Against that background, it is unconscionable that the Chief Justice concurs!
11. We call upon the current Chief Justice, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, to rescind Malanjun’s directive and require instead that coroner’s must inspect, in-situ, the bodies of those who die in custody.
12. We further call upon the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Hamid Bador, to take the necessary actions to ensure that coroners are not locked out of the first stages of investigation and that investigations are done thoroughly.
13. We note that according to a news report (link), the poli
ce have “found no criminal element or wrongdoing” in the death of Mr Bahdur. We ask, “what about misconduct, the cause of death almost inevitably found by the courts in cases of deaths in custody?”
14. It is not for the police to decide the cause of a death in custody. It is for coroners to decide, as stipulated in section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
EDICT 03 June 2020