KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Several civil rights groups today demanded that the police stop prematurely ruling out foul play in custodial death cases, reminding the force that it is required by law to hold an inquiry to investigate such incidents.
The Stop State Violence Movement (SSVM), an umbrella body comprising 29 rights groups, pointed out in a statement here that in the case of 32-year-old N. Dharmendran, the police had at first claimed the detainee died of “breathing difficulties”.
But the claim turned out to be false later after a post-mortem showed that the man died after he was badly beaten up by the police while in the lock-up.
“The Stop State Violence Movement would like to remind the police force not to speculate any information to the public as this could be misleading,” the movement said.
It was responding to the latest lock-up death of Nobuhiro Matsushita, a 33-year-old Japanese man who was found hanged in his cell at the USJ 8 police lock-up in Subang Jaya at 4am on Saturday.
In an immediate response, Selangor deputy police chief Datuk A. Thaiveegan appeared to rule out foul play, saying that an initial probe turned up no evidence of this.
“An autopsy report issued by the University Malaya Medical Centre found that the suspect died as a result of hanging and that there were no injuries on his body,” he was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.
But SSVM noted that KL CID chief SAC Datuk Ku Chin Wah had made a similar claim when Dharmendran was found dead recently.
Since then, however, three policemen have been charged in court with murdering the 32-year-old.
“Please stop speculating and assist for the rule of law to take place,” SSVM said.
“In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), section 334 clearly states that a magistrate shall in the case of a death in the custody of the police hold an inquiry into the cause of death,” it added.
The movement also labelled Subang Jaya police stations as the “killing ground” for suspected criminals, noting that in the USJ 8 lock-up alone two deaths have already occurred this year.
Apart from Matsushita, detainee Chan Chin Te died in the same lock-up on January 14.
On January 20, 2009, A. Kugan died in the Taipan police station, also in Subang Jaya.
Apart from Subang Jaya, SSVM also singled out the Dang Wangi police station as another location where many suspects breathed their last.
Listing them out, the movement said detainees P. Chandran, Wong Tip Ping and Nagarajan died in Dang Wangi on September 10, November 29 and December 24 respectively.
“The Stop State Violence Movement demands an immediate end to these serious human rights violations.
“The failure to ensure effective mechanisms to hold the Malaysian police accountable highlights a serious lack of political will by the government to take genuine steps to reform the police force in this country,” the movement said.
It also repeated demands for the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), which the government appeared to shoot down last week.
By Clara Chooi