Suhakam: Tackle ‘serious’ overcrowding in prisons

Suhakam-prisonPETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) says the government’s budgetary priorities cast doubt on its interest in upholding the rights of detainees.

In its 2016 annual report, the commission said there appeared to be “little interest in the human rights of detainees”, who were sometimes regarded as “having lost all of their human rights by virtue of their detention”.

It highlighted the “serious humanitarian issue” of overcrowding in detention centres, saying that the increase in the number of detainees was not accompanied by a similar growth in necessary resources such as the budget.

“This has an impact on the entire system, which in turn results in greater pressure on the facility administration and staff,” it said.

Suhakam said overcrowding in prisons and detention centres could lead to such deterioration that the detainees are exposed to inhumane living conditions.

“Not only is the human dignity aspect of detainees eroded, but their mental, emotional and physical health sometimes deteriorates further,” it said.

The commission said a 2016 visit to the Sungai Buloh Prison showed that it was keeping 5,209 inmates although its gazetted capacity was 3,000 inmates, exceeding its limit by over 50%.

A visit to the Pengkalan Chepa Prison on Sept 21 showed it was housing 2,500 inmates against its gazetted capacity of 1,500.

“Overcrowding in any place of detention would lead to untenable living conditions with little regard for the inmates’ basic human dignity,” Suhakam said.

“Being confined in a small space, often in insanitary conditions, makes deprivation of liberty more challenging.

“Guaranteeing decent and humane conditions of detention is an essential aspect of the right to justice.”