Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kugan's Death in Police Custody :- Malaysian Bar Media Statement 23/1/2009

Image Once again we are appalled and shocked that yet another young man has died in police custody. The death of 22-year old A. Kugan occurred in highly suspicious circumstances that raise very alarming questions about the treatment of detainees in police custody and the methods of interrogation used. The question on everyone’s mind is how a young man, who was apparently in good health, died while under police care just five days after being arrested.

Disturbing and explicit photographs and video footage of the deceased individual are now available in the public domain. They reveal shockingly severe, inexplicable injuries on his body, which appear to be consistent with physical restraint and torture. The onus is squarely on the police, who had custody of the individual, to immediately explain the circumstances of his sudden death.

The Bar Council calls for prompt and serious action by the authorities, including an immediate, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation into this custodial death, preferably by an independent committee.
In this regard we welcome the Attorney-General’s announcement that he is treating this case as one of murder, and the Inspector-General of Police’s statement that there will be no cover-up.

We trust that undue attention will not be given to the incident at the mortuary. It reflected the reactions of persons who were understandably outraged and emotional about A. Kugan’s sudden and unexplained death. It also sadly reflects their lack of faith in the system and the authorities to uncover the truth in a transparent and unbiased manner. This view prevails because none of the perpetrators of similar acts in the past have been brought to book.

This is not the first custodial death in recent years and our fear is that it will not be the last. Such tragedies bring to the fore, once again, the dire need for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, to function as an independent, external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to make the police accountable for their conduct.

We also call on the authorities to expedite the ongoing inquests into other custodial deaths. We are deeply concerned that this custodial death will be relegated to a mere statistic, like the others. As a civilised nation, we must not let this happen.

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
23 January 2009

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