In order to curb deaths in custody, the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) has suggested that a 'third party witness' be present during interrogation in police stations.
"This could be, but not necessarily, a lawyer. His presence would eliminate claims of brutality against the detainees," said its secretary-general Maamor Osman.
"Questioning should never be one-to-one," he added. "The third party witness will watch to make sure there is no physical or mental torture. This would help prevent any dispute. Of late, there are have been many reports of police brutality during interrogation, even allegedly resulting in death.
Maamor (right) also urged the police to inform the detainees of their rights, including access to a lawyer or family members when arrested, as many people had no idea what to do when detained, or that an interrogation cannot exceed eight hours per day.
He also recommended the police set up closed circuit televisions in the station particularly in the cells to monitor the inmates so that any violent behavior that could cause injury would be observed.
Playing up racial issues
When asked what was his reaction to Malays being the highest number dying in police custody, he said he hoped this people would not make this issue a racial one, as the work of the police was go after wrongdoers, irrespective of their race.
"But we do not condone deaths in custody if it was caused by brutality," he stressed.
As many as 147 deaths in police custody have been reported since 2000 and last Friday several NGO activists demanded guarantees from the Home Ministry and the police that such deaths will no longer occur.
Statistics between 2000 and February 2010 showed that 64 Malays had died while in police custody, with 30 deaths among Chinese detainees, 28 among Indians, eight people of other races. 14 of the dead were foreigners.
Sixty three deaths were classified as from 'other diseases' such as ulcers, jaundice and intestine, lung and throat infections, 32 from HIV, 12 from brain hemorrhage, while 23 had been listed as 'suicide - Malaysiakini, 1/2/2011, 'Third party witness' to prevent deaths in custody
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
147 [64 Malays, 30 Chinese, 28 Indians,...] died in police custody 2000-2010
If there is a death in custody, as of right there must be an independent inquest. There should not be any requirement for family members of the victims or others to request one.
In fact, there should be an inquest on any deaths that happen by reason of the police (or enforcement officers or RELA) involvement and/or action/omission, whilst in custody, those shot and killed allegedly when the police were 'trying' to arrest, etc...
We have found out that just having an inquest is not sufficient - if there has been no proper serious independent investigations done about the death...No proper investigations - to many gaps - result an inquest that cannot come out with any conclusive decisions.
Further, inquests should be done by a High Court Judge - not by some public officer from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and Deputy Registrars, Session Court Judges, Magistrates and ....yes the Public Prosecutors are all from the same Judicial and Legal Services Commission. So, the coroners senior may be the Public Prosecutor in that case...
Even though an inquest, is not a battle between 'prosecution' and 'defence' as it happens in criminal trials, but is an inquiry to discover the truth the manner in which the Teoh Beng Hock's and many other inquests were conducted seem to be otherwise, with the man from the AG's Chambers trying to prove that no police or MACC or other authorities were involved in the death...and that the death was suicide or misadventure where no authority could be blamed for...
That is why for a proper inquest....there must be (1) an independent investigation into the death, (2) an independent coroner presiding the inquest, and (3) re-enforcing that the intention of any inquest is to find the truth - not to mount a defence that the authorities were not responsible.