Govt urged to empower Suhakam for surprise prison visits

AISYAH BASARUDDIN
07 Jul 2023 05:34pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX
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SHAH ALAM - Calls have been made for the government to enhance the check and balance system by granting greater authority to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to conduct surprise prison visits.

This measure is intended to prevent incidents of abuse against prisoners, similar to the recent alleged case in a prison located in the northern region of the country.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy emphasised the importance of these visits in obtaining an accurate assessment of the conditions of inmates and preventing any advance notice that could lead to the destruction of evidence and tampering with the scene of the incident.

“Based on a portal's report, inmates were allegedly hit and tortured using PVC pipes as well as blunt objects, denied access to sufficient air supply, dirty food, not being given professional care as well as stripped down to be shamed.

"These claims challenge the integrity of the Department of Prisons and tarnish Malaysia's reputation as a member of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on the international stage, violating the Lockup Rules 1953 and the Prisons Act," he said in a statement on Thursday.

Doraisamy revealed that the victims had lodged a complaint in 2022, but their cases were not addressed.

As a result, 125 prisoners initiated a petition, appealing for government intervention.

Sevan added the role of the Visiting Judge must be strengthened to combat all cruel treatment of prisoners in addition to the government enacting the Anti-Torture Act to criminalise any form of torture.

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“Suaram urges the public to join the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

“By joining this convention, the nation can develop effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and policy measures to prohibit and prevent acts of torture or abuse,” he said.