KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) is not sufficient to monitor police abuse as it oversees a whopping 19 government agencies, critics say after a man was recently found dead in a Johor prison.
Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru said the statistics on deaths in police custody was quite worrying, with an average of about one death per month.
“The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) is a poor substitute for the IPCMC and has failed to deal with the serious complaints of deaths in custody,” Steven told Malay Mail Online, referring to the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) that was proposed by a royal commission of inquiry 10 years ago.
“The EAIC remains an insufficient measure to deal with deaths in custody. The IPCMC — which will be dedicated solely to the police, as opposed to the EAIC that oversees about 19 agencies — is the best solution to this appalling situation of suspects or accused persons dying in police custody,” the head of the professional legal body added.
News portal Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Johor police claimed that S. Shahshikumar had hanged himself in his Kluang jail cell on May 22 while reportedly serving a 10-year imprisonment term for stealing rice and sardine.
EAIC commissioner Leong May Chan told a forum yesterday that the EAIC has yet to refer to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) any of the over 1,000 complaints it has received since its inception in 2011, claiming none of them had any criminal elements.
The oversight body has also yet to publish the results of its inquiry into two death in police custody cases — N. Dhamendran and R. Jamesh Ramesh — that was announced almost two years ago.
Former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah, who had spearheaded the call for the IPCMC, told a forum yesterday that deaths in custody were a result of the police turning a blind eye towards violence by their own colleagues, poor self-accountability in the force, and a disregard for human rights.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said the EAIC is not enough and echoed the call for the IPCMC, claiming that cases of torture perpetrated by the police are not fully investigated.
“The concept of human rights policing does not exist in Malaysia; they lack it during police training here. Compare to other countries such as HK where they train police on the concept,” Shamini told Malay Mail Online.
“For over 10 years or more, the police has proven that they are incapable of investigating themselves. Hence, we need the IPCMC,” she added.
Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen said deaths in custody are a systemic problem that implicates not just the police, but also the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the judiciary and medical authorities.
“For far too long, magistrates have been allowed to conduct sub-standard inquests where deaths in custody have not been inquired properly. Inquests mostly fail because investigation is left in the hands of the police — a blue wall of silence builds up — and no proper investigation is done, thus evidence is lost,” Paulsen told Malay Mail Online.
“Medical authorities have also been disappointing in failing to conduct post mortems properly, seen most clearly in cases like A. Kugan and Karuna Nithi where the pathologists down played the injuries and covered up the horrific true nature of the injuries and cause of death.
AGC officers who assist in inquest also sometimes fail to understand their role in an inquest — more often than not defending the police personnel rather than truly assisting the coroner and acting in the public interest,” the human rights lawyer added.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said last month that police statistics from 2000 to February 2014 showed that 242 detainees died in police custody, with police data showing that most of the deaths were caused by illnesses or cardiac arrests.
– Steven Thiru, Leong May Chan and Shamini Darshini had spoken at the Forum on Rogue Cops: Workable Solutions – Police Accountability in Malaysia, a collaboration between the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) and Bar Council Malaysia via its Task Force on IPCMC, which took place on 30 May 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.