LFL: Inquest into custody death proof IPCMC is needed

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Source: FMTNews

Human rights NGO says Attorney-General and IGP must take issues of state violence more seriously.

Lawyer Eric Paulsen, who represented the family of the deceased P. Karuna Nithi, says a deputy public prosecutor had written to Coroner Datuk Jagjit Singh to reopen the inquest. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 1, 2015.

Lawyer Eric Paulsen, who represented the family of the deceased P. Karuna Nithi, says a deputy public prosecutor had written to Coroner Datuk Jagjit Singh to reopen the inquest. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 1, 2015.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has reiterated its call for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

The human rights NGO’s Executive Director Eric Paulsen said the IPCMC could function as an independent and external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel. The IPCMC is a powerful police watchdog mooted by a Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2005.

This latest call by the LFL comes following the decision of the Seremban Coroner’s Court today that there was no new material evidence produced by a Health Ministry-convened Inquiry Committee’s Report into the death of a detainee, P. Karuna Nithi, 42, at the Tampin police station lock-up on June 1, 2013.

The coroner, who reopened the inquest into the custody death, found the report to be not reliable or credible.

The coroner was satisfied that the cause of Karuna Nithi’s death remained the same as the previous coroner’s decision on Jan 28, 2015, i.e. by a combination of unlawful acts and omissions by person or persons unknown in the police lock-up.

Karuna, a former engineer, was kept in the lock-up after he surrendered himself for hitting his wife. Lawyers had claimed the post-mortem report revealed that he had multiple injuries on his body, but the cause of death was listed as “fatty change in liver”.

Paulsen said it had been almost three years since the death of Karuna Nithi but not a single person has been arrested or charged for his death, or even disciplined, despite the damning court findings.

“His death could have been avoided had the authorities taken action for the many previous deaths in custody.
“Unfortunately, the authorities’ inaction is symptomatic of a framework of institutionalised impunity where a detainee can die in police custody and there will be little recourse or accountability.

“Instead, a ‘blue wall of silence’ builds up to frustrate all attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Paulsen also criticised the reopening of the coroner’s inquest. “The Inquiry Report itself is not ‘new evidence’ in law but clearly an afterthought and unfair tactic designed to alter the original verdict and findings of the Coroner’s Court that were not favourable to them.”

Paulsen called upon the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police to take more seriously issues that involved state violence, especially extrajudicial killings.

“They must be particularly vigilant against the serious abuse of police powers that sidesteps the criminal justice process and takes on the role of judge, jury and executioner.”