Install CCTVs, punish cops, organise medical check ups, say experts on custodial deaths

16 Jun 2023 07:30am
Photo source : Free stock images
Photo source : Free stock images

SHAH ALAM - Every police lockup in the country must be equipped with functional CCTV systems for recording and storage capabilities and police officers should be punished for deaths that occur in custody, say experts to further reduce custodial deaths.

This comes after the number of deaths in police custody dropped by 48 per cent to 24 cases last year, compared to 46 in the previous year, after the Criminal Investigation Unit for Deaths in Custody was established,

Former Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the police department should be commended for their efforts in establishing and implementing positive reforms through the newly formed criminal investigation unit, specifically addressing cases of death in custody.

"However, it is important to note that these efforts should be sustained and aimed at achieving zero deaths in custody.

"One of the recommendations to prevent deaths in custody, especially related to existing health issues is to have detainees regularly examined by medical professionals. This practice would help prevent any deterioration of health during their detention period," he said to Sinar Daily.

Salim further said that the police should provide medical personnel who could conduct thorough examinations of detainees before they are placed in police lockups.

This proactive measure would help identify any existing health conditions and ensure the well-being of detainees during their custody, he added.

"Police also as far as possible should allow legal practitioners to meet those arrested at their place of detention as provided under Section 28A(4) Criminal Procedure code," he said.

In order to ensure transparency, Salim highlighted the importance of the investigation unit presenting the outcome of any investigations link to custodial deaths to independent bodies such as Suhakam or the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).

This step would enhance transparency and accountability in handling cases of custodial deaths, ensuring a fair and impartial evaluation of the investigation findings, he urged.

Commenting further, Senior Partner of Messrs Anton & Chen, Alex Anton Netto said deaths in custody often occur due to a lack of awareness surrounding the issue.

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He said the sad reality in general is that it tends to overlook and underestimate the value of a prisoner's life.

"Therefore, the best way to lower such numbers is to ensure proper punishment is meted out to officers who are found guilty and that bodies like Suhakam and EIAC must step up and act as effective watchdogs," he reasoned.

Suhakam Commissioner Professor Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said Suhakam is not pleased with the reduce number of deaths in custody as such incidents are still taking place.

"Even one death is a concern to us.

"Right to life is fundamental human rights as enshrined in Federal Constitution and international human rights standards," she said.

Aziah said there should be a mandatory medical screening for every accused before the remand procedure.

"Currently there are Custodial Health Unit only at five centrallised locks in Malaysia.

"Detaining suspects lockups must be a last resort. Police can release them on bail after the investigation without uncessarry remand," she said.

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