• EDICT Malaysia

We will honour those who died unjustly, regardless of the obstacles put in our way by PDRM and DBKL

1. On Thursday 16 July 2009, two young men died in custody. Gunasegaran, 31-years, died in Sentul police lockup. Teoh Beng Hock, 30-years, died in MACC premises in Shah Alam.

2. Malaysia has no laws or directives which mandate that deaths in custody must be reported publicly and routinely. However, Home Ministers have been compelled to release some data in response to parliamentary questions.

3. From that data, we know that the average number of deaths in custody per year is as follows: 16 persons in police lockups, 50 persons in immigration detention centres and 258 persons in prisons.

4. Based on those statistics, we estimate that since that black Thursday in 2009, 176 persons have died in police lockups, 550 persons have died in immigration detention centres and 2,838 persons have died in prisons. 3,564 lives have been lost, many due to inhumane treatment.

5. In the case of persons who die in the custody of the police or in a psychiatric hospital or prison, section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) require magistrates/judges to conduct inquests to determine whether any unlawful acts or omissions contributed to the deaths. (There is no such provision for those who die in immigration detention centres.)

6. We also know from Parliamentary responses that in two thirds of cases of deaths in lockups, inquests were not held.

7. We know of cases in which the police do not complete investigations into deaths until families get High Courts to order that the law be complied with. Just two weeks ago the Selangor police even failed to report a death to the coroner.

8. We know that the police do not take deaths and abuse in custody seriously. We know that severely ill people are put in lockups without medical certification of their fitness to be locked up.

9. We know of severe maintenance issues in lockups. In one lockup, for months, detainees drank toilet flush water which they caught in bottles, endured stale air because the central ventilation system was broken and became severely ill en masse due to leptospirosis.

10. We know the government has been ordered to pay millions of Ringgit in damages to families of the deceased. Wouldn’t this money be better spent making improvements to avoid abuse and deaths?

11. We know of dozens of police personnel whose acts or omissions led to deaths, but we know of no statements by the police announcing disciplinary actions taken against any of them. We know of one case in which a policeman who was undergoing criminal and civil trials for causing extensive bruising leading to death of an arrestee was promoted – and transferred to his own hometown.

12. To-date, no one has been punished for the deaths of Gunasegaran and of Beng Hock. The police internal affairs department (JIPS) does not appear to pay any attention to what is revealed about police conduct during court hearings. No one from JIPS attends hearings.

13. Black Thursday is a day which has been observed every year to remember those who died unjustly, those who are unpunished for causing deaths and those who lack the political will and leadership to end deaths in custody and establish humane treatment as a norm.

14. Today, by the riverside, next to the Bar Council building in Kuala Lumpur, as we have done for ten years, we will do solemn things. We will remember the injustices perpetrated in our nation. We will renew our vows to end abuse and deaths in custody. We will make renewed calls for public reporting of deaths, for detection of wrongful remands, and for actions against errant officers.

15. This year the Kuala Lumpur police claim that the notice we submitted for our event, in accordance with the Public Assembly Act, is incomplete because it was not accompanied by consent from DBKL, the custodian and alleged owner of the pavement on which our event has been held for years. We maintain that “custodian” does not mean “owner.”

16. We note that a DBKL official who was called to attend a meeting with us and the police advised us to approach the Mayor or the Minister for the Federal Territory to get permission – because, well, DBKL has no process to deal with such requests.

17. The police also insist that the National Security Council (NSC) has prohibited gatherings such as ours. However, when we contacted the NSC, we were told there are no such prohibitions. Notably, we were not urged to cancel our event.

18. Today we will again channel the memory of the dead to restore honour to the police who labour to keep us safe but are tarnished by the unpunished actions of a few. Sebab nila setitik, rosak susu sebelangga.

19. We will abide by the law and democratic processes. We will not be cowed by police who knowingly or unknowingly misinterpret the law.

EDICT 16 July 2020

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