Human rights group calls for new law after police custody death

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — Human rights group Suaram today demanded a new law to end torture by law enforcement agencies after the year’s first death while in police custody was reported.
According to media reports, a 40 year old man, A. Punniyanathan, was found dead in a cell at the police station in Nibong Tebal early yesterday morning. He had been arrested on suspicion of theft on February 5.
Suaram said the officer in charge of the police station, who is tasked with ensuring the safety of detainees, must be required produce the station diary for scrutiny in order to to prove that there had been no foul play.
Failure to do so would make allegations of tampering inevitable, it added.
Last year Amnesty International urged Malaysia to take steps to stop the alarming number of deaths in police custody. At least 12 people are known to have died in police custody in 2013, up from nine for all of 2012.
Suaram urged Home Minister, Datuk Zahid Hamidi, to establish a permanent coroner’s court to examine death in custody cases as he had promised in June 2013.
“We call on the government to legislate anti-torture law to outlaw torture in order to end torture practices by law enforcement agencies,” it said, adding that any investigation of police misconduct must be performed by an independent body.
Seberang Perai Selatan police chief Supt Shafien Mamat was reported as saying that a post-mortem found that Punniyanathan died of lung infection brought on by bronchopneumonia.
Shafien was reported as saying that the deceased was addicted to samsu, a local moonshine.
Suaram said that the police acted in bad faith by painting Punniyanathan as a problematic alcoholic.
Brandishing Punniyanathan as an alcoholic does not provide the reason for his death while under the custody of the police,” it added.