1 JUNE 2021
In light of recent police misconduct cases resulting in the deaths in custody of Surendran, Ganapathy and Sivabalan, civil society calls for immediate steps to both ensure all of these incidents are investigated transparently as well as stop further occurrence of such cases.
The deaths of Ganapathy and Sivabalan, just a month apart and involving the same police station (IPD Gombak), are perplexing and completely unacceptable. But they are not new. The fate that befell Surendran, Ganapathy and Sivabalan is a continuation of a pattern of unnecessary deaths in police custody. There were others before them, including Kugan, N. Dharmendran, Syed Azlan, Kamarulnizam, Mohd Fadzrin, Cheah Chin Lee and many more.
We would also like to remind the public of other recent police misconduct cases such as sexual harassment during roadblocks highlighted in the media earlier this year, the response by police concerning Ain’s sexual harassment jokes and further investigation of journalists and elected representatives commenting on cases of police misconduct. Despite rising public concern over the police, the government has been slow to react, if at all. Civil society calls for immediate response from the government, especially Minister of Home Affairs Hamzah Zainudin. We also reaffirm our call for establishing the long-overdue Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as soon as parliament reconvenes.
We, the members of Malaysian Civil Society, call for these immediate steps:
1) Appoint independent external bodies to investigate recent cases of Death in Custody
Considering the fact that the police cannot be conducting an independent investigation on their internal bodies and personnel—which is the very reason why the idea for an independent body (IPCMC) was birthed—we urge that appropriate measures are taken to establish an external, transparent and independent body to investigate the three deaths in custody.
We demand that the Home Minister to appoint an independent external body to conduct a thorough investigation. This includes gathering evidence of mistreatment, arrest procedures, and proper standard operating procedure (SOP) in the detention centre as laid out in the Lockup Rules 1953 and Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). In upholding the principle of transparency, the findings and the investigation report are to be fully disclosed as a matter of public interest.
2) Set up health units in all custodial centres
All detainees’ well-being and welfare is the responsibility of the authority who had detained them as stated under domestic and international laws. Section 10 of Lockup Rules 19531 mandates a medical officer to examine each person admitted to the custodial centre to determine whether they are fit for detention. We demand that the Malaysian government works out an immediate plan to set up a health unit in every lockup and custodial centre to ensure this section of the law adheres. This fulfils the state obligations in ensuring all detainees are treated with dignity and humanity as stated in Rule 30 of the United Nation Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoner, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules2 and the Principle 24 of the Body Principles for the Protection of All Person under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
We are aware of the current effort by Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) who had worked with PDRM to set up a health unit in Bayan Baru lockup in Penang and Indera Mahkota lockup in Pahang, which will be expanded to other lockups in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah in six months. We urge the government not to procrastinate and to expedite implementing this recommendation by SUHAKAM to set up as many health units as possible across east and west Malaysia to prevent further deaths due to health reasons.
3) To conduct an inquest for cases of death in custody in line with Section 344 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593)
Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593) clearly states that it is mandatory for an inquest proceeding to be held for all deaths in police custody. However, based on monitoring by NGOs and SUHAKAM, only a few cases of death in custody have been subjected to an inquest proceeding. This shows how our criminal justice system has failed to uphold the law as stated in the statute.
We also urge an amendment to section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code to include immigration and custom detention centres. This amendment is to ensure the human rights of all detainees and prevent death in all detention centres from occurring with impunity.
4) Establish Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)
IPCMC, since it was first mooted by the Report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police in 2005, has met with roadblocks for its implementation. Countless consultations and studies have been done by the Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, and now Perikatan Nasional government, which all failed to establish the commission. We urge all legislative members from all sides, especially Perikatan Nasional, to stop their hypocrisy and take serious steps to pass the IPCMC bill in Parliament.
We also like to point out that the implementation of IPCMC must be aligned with the recommendation by CSOs and international standards in relation to impartiality and independence. This recommendation includes:
– The power to investigate and gather evidence,
– Access to custodial centres or places where death and abuses had occurred, and
– The capacity to implement its proposal to charge and take disciplinary action against individuals found responsible and guilty of misconduct.
Without it, the commission will be rendered ineffective. It would suffer the same fate as the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) that was criticised for its inability to enforce its recommendations.
Calls for Action
We, members of the Malaysian civil society, call for the Malaysian government through the Home Minister to adopt these four recommendations immediately to address the current public distrust and scepticism towards our biggest enforcement agency, the PDRM. The police cannot act with impunity and cannot investigate itself, as evidenced by continuing deaths in custody and other human rights violations. This commitment is of utmost urgency, as the integrity of the PDRM is under question.
We call for all people in Malaysia to voice their dissatisfaction over the country’s harmful and horrendous policing standards by supporting the campaign to establish an IPCMC. All persons can participate in this campaign by sharing our campaign materials and using our campaign hashtags #PDRMGagal and #IPCMCNow in their social media postings. Like in many countries, we can achieve police accountability with support and solidarity from all Malaysian. You can be part of this change by amplifying the calls and information and staying informed.