Inquests should be held if a detainee dies under suspicious circumstances, says Suhakam commissioner.
KUALA LUMPUR: Family members of detainees who die while in custody can seek an inquest to determine their cause of death.
Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) Mah Weng Kwai said this was especially so in cases where custodial deaths occurred under suspicious circumstances.
“They can most certainly request (for an inquest) when there are some suspicions on how the person died and no action was taken over those allegedly responsible,” he said.
Mah was responding to questions on whether family members of detainees should seek inquests to determine the cause of death.
His remarks come in the wake of the announcement in Parliament yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that over 280 custodial deaths were recorded from 2000 to 2016.
However, in Suhakam’s annual report released earlier today, the commission stated that custodial deaths in prison had increased to 269 in 2016, compared with 252 in 2015.
Suhakam said 35 deaths were recorded in immigration centres last year, compared with 82 in 2015. No information was available on deaths in police lock-ups in 2016, but there were 12 reported deaths in 2015.
Mah, who is a former Court of Appeal judge, said it was up to the magistrate to decide if there was sufficient evidence on suspected deaths for an inquiry to be held.
“The magistrate, sitting as a coroner, needs to exercise his discretion if he wants to start an inquest,” he said.
Mah added that if the coroner could make a ruling and name the suspects involved in a detainee’s death in his verdict, the alleged assaulters could be prosecuted.
There have been three cases of custodial deaths reported since January.
On Jan 18, Soh Kai Chiok was found dead at the Bera police station.
On Feb 8, S Balamurugan was found dead in the North Klang police lock-up, while M Thanaseelan was found dead in his cell at the Bukit Sentosa lock-up in Hulu Selangor on Feb 25.
Suhakam and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission are probing the three deaths.