Thursday, January 11, 2007

Human rights violated in Simpang Renggam (Malaysiakini)

Human rights violated in Simpang Renggam
Andrew Ong
Jan 11, 07 2:02pm

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner N Siva Subramaniam is certain that human rights and prison rules were violated during a fracas at the Simpang Renggam detention centre in Johor last week.

Siva had visited the centre on Monday following complaints of physical abuse by wardens on the inmates. He interviewed some 40 inmates regarding the Jan 3 incident.

“While they (the prison authorities) might have reasons to justify the onslaught on unarmed prisoners, (I believe) they have no reason to justify the violation of basic human rights,” he said when contacted yesterday.

The commissioner said he saw the physical evidence of beatings on several of the detainees.

“In my opinion, we should hold a public inquiry on the matter. But its up to Suhakam to decide on Monday after I table my report on the visit,” he added.

There has been no official account of the incident. According to news reports, 16 inmates were given outpatient treatment at the Kluang hospital.

One inmate, who contacted malaysiakini shortly after the incident, claimed that ratan canes and batons were used to beat inmates after they were made to squat on the floor.

Appalling conditions

Based on his findings, Siva said an argument between an inmate and warden led the latter to raise the alarm.

Following this, the Prison Safety Unit (UKP) stormed in and began assaulting the inmates.

“What surprised even more was when I was told that prison officers were shouting at the UKP to stop (the beatings), but they didn’t,” said Siva, a former unionist turned Suhakam commissioner.

The commissioner said he was saddened to learn that several inmates were afraid to seek medical treatment for their injuries for fear of reprisals such as as solitary confinement.

He also pointed out that Simpang Renggam is highly unsanitary and many inmates were suffering from skin diseases and inactivity.

“They are not asking for a five-star hotel. They just want to be treated like decent human beings and also be given medical attention. If not, what rehabilitation are we talking about?” he added.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog Suaram yesterday submitted a letter to Suhakam chairperson Abu Talib Othman, urging him to conduct a public inquiry into the matter.

“Suhakam is the right body because they are entrusted to defend and promote human rights. Hence, they are duty bound to conduct this public inquiry to ascertain who are the perpetrators and propose how it can be avoided in the future,” said Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng.

The detention centre holds some 4,000 inmates detained without trial under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.

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