Third unsatisfactory response from the police this month
1. In a statement on 22 July (link) we asked Johor Police Chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay to comment on a report we had received that on 17 July a middle-aged Chinese male died in the Segamat IPD lockup.
2. Malaysiakini reporters immediately contacted him. He confirmed the death. According to Mkini (Hariz Mohd, Cops confirm another death in custody, 22 Jul 2020, 11.15 pm, link), the magistrate was called and was satisfied “there was no sign of foul play or injury found on the deceased. Now we are waiting for the post-mortem report to determine his cause of death.”
3. We know that the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) requires the police to call the magistrate. Six years ago, because of the scourge of deaths in custody, the government agreed that sudden deaths must be handled by more senior members of the judiciary. In 2014, Coroner’s courts, presided over by Sessions Court judges, were established. Why wasn’t the coroner called? Isn’t it time the CPC, practice instructions and Standard Operating Procedures are amended to replace “magistrate” with “coroner”? Isn’t it time to appoint more coroners?
4. We are glad the Johor police chief appears not to have exonerated his men. We are glad he stated that the post-mortem report must be reviewed before determining the cause of death. We add that the CPC requires the post-mortem report to be reviewed together with other evidence, by a coroner, via an inquest. It is not for the police to decide.
5. The CPC requires coroners to determine whether any acts or omissions by others contributed to the death. Coroners have noted many causes of deaths in custody. These include unverified medical fitness to be placed in lockups, lack of access to medication, lack of nutrition, lack of monitoring, poor response to medical emergencies and many more.
6. The Mkini report says nothing about why the Johor police chief did not issue any statement about the case. We are left wondering if the case would ever have become public knowledge if we had not revealed it.
7. We ask the Johor police chief the same question we asked the Kuala Lumpur police chief (on 01 July, link) and the Selangor police chief (on 4 July, link): “Other than the coroner (as required by law), to whom must the police report the death? What information must the police release to each victim’s family and to the public? By when?”
8. As can be seen from the three cases about which we have issued statements in July, there is clearly a systemic issue with reporting and investigating deaths in custody. (Note: We know of no public comments by the KL police chief about the 25 June death in Dang Wangi lockup.)
9. Will Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Hamid Bador and Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin admit the problem and take immediate action? Will YB Nik Nazmi, chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs summon the Home Minister and demand a plan to end the scourge?
10. Will MPs on both sides of Parliament demonstrate a commitment to end the treatment of human lives as inanimate objects?
EDICT 30 July 2020