Suaram alleges underreporting of deaths in police custody

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Members of Suara Rakyat Malaysia pose with copies of the 2021 Human Rights Report in Kuala Lumpur December 1, 2021. — Picture by Ahmaf Zamzahuri
Members of Suara Rakyat Malaysia pose with copies of the 2021 Human Rights Report in Kuala Lumpur December 1, 2021. — Picture by Ahmaf Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The number of undocumented cases of deaths in custody in 2021 has been severely underreported, according to human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

Suaram senior programme officer Mohammad Alshatri said the Home Ministry did not classify several incidents as custodial deaths despite these fitting the criteria.

He said this when releasing a Suaram report that concluded there were 19 custodial deaths in the year to date.

“The deaths of S. Sivabalan at IPD Gombak and Umar Faruq (Abdullah) at IPD South Klang are examples of cases overlooked in these statistics,” he said today during Suaram’s annual overview report launch.

“This raises the question of the definition of deaths by the home minister or police which provided the home minister with the data. We demanded they use international standards and extend deaths beyond police lockup as well as provide annual reports in all custodial centres.”

According to the data provided by Suaram, the 19 deaths in custody occurred from January 20 until November 16 2021. Ten of these cases had the official cause of death listed as “medical” reasons, three as “suicide”, three more as death from unspecified “injuries” and two were ‘Not reported’.

Two cases were at the Gombak police station, the rest were at Yan, Cheras, South Klang, Kota Bharu, IPD Kuala Selangor and at the Kuala Langat, Pekan and Kota Bharu district police headquarters.

One death happened during a raid by the Sentul police on October 6, 2021.

Apart from that, Suaram found two deaths in custody at the Kluang prison and one at Tapah, Simpang Renggam, Sg Buloh and Kajang. The remaining two custodial deaths that were not reported did not have locations listed.

One of those individuals was identified as Zahari Ayub who died on July 20, 2021.

Alshatri urged the government to provide proper statistics and not let the public rely on Parliamentary answers which have proven to be inaccurate.

“If the government is serious about tackling these issues, why the need to be so discreet with the statistics?’’ he asked.

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