PETALING JAYA: There has been little improvement in police procedures to deliver medical care for persons in police custody, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today following its independent investigation on a detainee’s death in Melaka.
Its chairman Razali Ismail said the investigation on the demise of K Parthiban had led to “unresolved issues” being identified on medical attention in lockups, in relation to custodial deaths.
“Although there has been a plethora of previous reports, recommendations and proposals from Suhakam to assist the authorities to protect the health and safety of detainees with an aim to minimising incidences of deaths in police custody, we regret that many of these have not been implemented or have been ignored,” he said.
Parthiban, who was detained at the Melaka Tengah police station, died at the Malacca Hospital while receiving treatment on May 22.
Razali said Suhakam observed gaps in communication between the station’s management and the unit that escorted Parthiban who it said was interviewed six times during his 21-day remand from May 2 under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959.
He said based on testimonies from 24 witnesses, including police and medical officers, Suhakam found that Parthiban, a suspected gang leader, was not in good health but had initially refused treatment at the station.
The police were not immediately aware that he was a diabetic patient but he subsequently told them, Razali added.
“Suhakam was informed that there was an order for the deceased to receive treatment at the Malacca Hospital, but the police escorting unit were of the view that the order was only for serious medical cases,” he said in a statement.
Parthiban was then taken to two different clinics. Razali said at the Peringgit clinic, the medical officer there did not have his medical record which was with the police.
The detainee was also not taken for his follow-up appointment set by the medical officer.
“Suhakam also wishes to highlight that in satisfying duty of care requirements, the police are responsible for the provision of medical attention to any detainee who requires it,” Razali said.
“Police procedures further require that regular cell checks occur to ensure the safety of detainees, with more frequent checks for detainees at risk,” he added.
He said police are obliged to seek a professional medical opinion if there are doubts concerning a detainee’s health, welfare or medication.
He said the commission recommended that an inquest be held to identify the cause of the death and whether negligence had contributed to it, under Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The death must be “promptly, independently and effectively investigated” and appropriate action be taken, whether disciplinary or criminal, based on the evidence, he said.
The commission also called for the home ministry and the police, together with the health and finance ministries, to ensure that Regulation 10 of the 1953 Lock-up Rules is implemented through adequate budget, manpower and equipment, and custodial medical teams are set up in all lock-ups.