Press Release by Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy on 20 August 2017

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy urges Home Ministry to explain the astonishing 1,654 cases of death in custody, whether it had been due to cruel and inhuman lockup conditions, as revealed by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) after its visit to Ayer Molek police lockup in Johor Bahru in July 2017.

The Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had previously disclosed the statistics in March 2017, he claimed that the deaths from 2010 to February 2017 were attributed to “health issues such as HIV, cancer, heart problem, TB and asthma”. As SUHAKAM commissioners have pointed out, during the visit, many detainees looked sickly, they were denied medical treatment, adequate water and food. Even police officers handling the lockup had been infected by tuberculosis and forced to wear face masks.

Apparently, the unfit and unhygienic lockup conditions have possibly led to astonishing high number of death in custody, which violates the detainees’ right to health and right to life. This alarming issue has persisted more than a decade, The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had revealed in a report that 1,535 cases of death in custody were recorded from 2003 to 2007 in Malaysia.

We call upon the government to set up an independent taskforce consists of medical experts, civil society leaders and SUHAKAM to review and investigate all previous death in custody cases in relations to cruel and inhuman detention conditions, which covers police lockup, prisons, detention centres, rehabilitation centre and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission lockups. There must be justice and remedy for victims of death in custody who’s right to health were violated during their detention.

The Malaysian parliament must increase the budget to improve the infrastructures of lockups and detention centres, as well as enhance the health and well-being of detainees. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has stipulated that everyone has right to standard of adequate living, regardless a person is free or being detained.

Abdul Samad Said
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

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