Monday, 24 August 2009

Deaths In Custody

Some time ago, when people were still outraged at the murder of Teoh Beng Hock, I sent an Australian colleague a link to a video in Malaysiakini.

Said Australian colleague did some research and came up with some other interesting but factual links. "I have really been moved by the news about this guy," he admitted.

I understand. I was moved during my "first" news of death in custody, a young alleged criminal named Kugan.

Now the fellow might have been up to some mischief (car theft, if I'm not mistaken), but it does not deserve torture to the extent of those kind of injuries.

Haris Ibrahim attended the funeral of Gunasegaran, the latest civilian to die in police custody - incidentally on the same day as Teoh Beng Hock. He was severely assaulted before he died.

That begs the question: how many people exactly are dying under police custody??

You wouldn't expect the mainsteam media to have that sort of information, but you may be rather surprised.

However, Bernama conveniently removes old news, so I am copying and pasting this in its entirety instead of linking it, but this bit of news actually comes from the horse's mouth - the government itself.

If you're alert, you may find the numbers don't tally and there are holes in the story.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 (Bernama) -- The Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday there were 1,535 deaths in prisons, rehabilitation centres and detention centres for illegal immigrants between 2003 and last year.

There were 600 deaths in drug rehabilitation centres, according to the Prisons Department records. Deputy Home Minister Senator Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said the country's prisons had a better track record compared to prisons in the United Kingdom if that country's 'benchmarking' figures were used.

"In 2007, the number of deaths in British prisons was 183 while here there were only three.

"Most of the deaths were in hospitals, that is when the prisoners were undergoing treatment, one per cent of the deaths occurred while they were on the way to hospital and 0.5 per cent happened in the prisons," he said in reply to a supplementary question from M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat).

Kulasegaran wanted to know the cause of detainees' deaths and asked if there was a special body to investigate deaths in prisons and detention centres.

Wan Ahmad Farid said according to police statistics there were 85 deaths recorded in police lock-ups during the 2003-2007 period of which 77 were due to diseases, seven due to suicide by hanging and one due to a fight in the cell.

"There was only one death in police custody due to excessive force by those on duty," he said.

He said based on medical officers' and coroners' reports, the main cause of deaths were diseases like HIV/Aids, septicaemia, pulmonary tuberculosis, cancer, heart disease, blood-related problems and asthma as well as infections of the intestines, liver, lungs and throat.

Wan Ahmad Farid said there were also deaths due to hanging, blood clots and falls in the bathrooms or toilets.

He said follow-up action taken to overcome deaths included having closed-circuit surveillance in all areas, increasing visits and patrols as well as having dialogue sessions with detainees to identify problems they faced.-- BERNAMA , 8/7/2008

SUARAM (the Penang branch) has more stats.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has an insight into this sordid issue:

Throughout 2003, there were numerous incidents of police brutality against criminal suspects resulting in serious injuries and deaths. In many cases, the victims were poor, had little education and lacked the proper “connections” to ensure proper treatment from the police. The treatment meted out against these suspects is a stark contrast to that accorded to persons of different backgrounds—namely professionals, affluent or well-connected people.

But yes. If you've read the article or done your homework on deaths in custody, you'd be aware that most of the victims are the poor, uneducated Indians.

When their families claimed their bodies, the police categorically denied having assaulted them.

And yet, there were always signs of injuries - gashes and wounds.


-naga- said...

Crankster, like Haris mentioned in his latest post, the first case of custodial death was probably that of Francis Udayappan.

There are some videos on Youtube which captured the moments just after Francis's death. This is the first one of the series:

Although most of it is in English and Malay, the mom speaks in Tamil mostly; I tried translating for the benefit of others, but its just too.. depressing. I am sure readers will understand the grievances of a mum who just lost her son under mysterious circumstances, no translation needed there. Viewers' discretion advised.

-naga- said...

p/s Haris just told me that he couldn't access the video because of:

“This video is not available in your country due to copyright restrictions”.

Just use a proxy guys:

*Rolls eyes over to Rais, that snake*

shar101 said...

And this one too.