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Suaram says inquests granted to less than half of deaths in custody where detainee’s health condition was cited for demise

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Health reasons have been cited as the main cause of death of detainees held by prison, police and immigration authorities in Malaysia this year.

But in the span of 10 years, less than 50 per cent of deaths under detention was granted an inquest to determine the actual reasons, human rights advocacy group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) disclosed today.

“The current number of inquest conducted by the government is only a small percentage. If I calculate based on Suaram's data, it’s only 15.1 per cent.

“If I calculate with government data, it’s only 31.5 per cent,” Jernelle Tan Chia Ee, Suaram’s documentation and monitoring coordinator, told a news conference at the launch of the NGO’s Malaysia Human Rights Report 2023 Overview here this morning.

She said that in 60 per cent of the cases where the authorities claimed the detainee died due to health reasons, symptoms only manifested in less than 24 hours before death. However, even in an inquest, she said there is little disclosure provided on why the detainees died.

“For example, bacterial infection. They disclose just the reason of death but not which manner or how the detainee passed away,” Tan said.

Suaram’s 2023 human rights report seeks to highlight the importance of providing information about the manner of death, which may or may not include unlawful acts or omissions that may have caused or contributed or accelerated their condition, citing that it would be vital for the victim’s family in obtaining justice.

The report also highlighted that 125 inmates who alleged torture in prison and had filed a petition to the government to seek justice.

Suaram said its report was based on the answers provided by ministers in Parliament as well as its monitoring of news.

*Editor’s note: The name of Suaram’s documentation and monitoring coordinator was misspelt in an earlier version and has since been corrected. Malay Mail apologises for the error.