Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Suhakam: Beatings may have caused detainee's death, prosecute culprits

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The Malaysian Human Rights Commission's (Suhakam) probe into the death of S Balamurugan at the North Klang district police headquarters on Feb 7 found that he was tortured and detained illegally.

Suhakam said it was informed that the victim, who was arrested with two other suspects on Feb 6, were beaten up by the police between 7.30pm and 9.30pm at Bandar Baru Klang police station before being transferred to the district headquarters.

The commission said Balamurugan, 44, was unable to walk when he was moved from the North Klang district police headquarters to the Shah Alam centralised lock up at around 4.10am the following morning.

Suhakam noted at 10am that day, the Klang Magistrate's Court had noticed Balamurugan's injuries and refused remand, ordering the police to send him to the hospital instead.

However, this was ignored by the police who continued to unlawfully detain Balamurugan beyond the 24-hour period allowed to hold him.

Suhakam had interviewed the magistrate on Feb 23, 2017, and was informed that the latter's face and eyes were swollen.

“He was unable to sit up, stand or hold his head up when his name was called in court,” it added.

Although the police had the opportunity to take the deceased to the hospital, Suhakam said, they failed to do so and took him back to the North Klang district police headquarters at about 1.15pm.

"Suhakam was informed that the deceased was shivering again at this point but he was not given any medical attention.

"By approximately 6.30pm by which time his detention became unlawful, Balamurugan's condition had deteriorated severely to the extent that he had no control over his urine,” it added.

At around 11.30pm, Balamurugan was found unconscious and presumably dead by the investigating officer.

Victim had multiple bruises

Two post-mortem procedures were conducted on the deceased.

Hospital Tuanku Ampuan Rahimah Klang concluded that the cause of death was coronary artery disease while Hospital Kuala Lumpur attributed it to coronary artery disease and blunt force trauma.

Suhakam noted that while both pathologists concluded that the deceased was suffering from a severe heart condition, their medical opinion was that the injuries could have triggered a heart attack or worsened his heart condition, leading to death.

The commission said Balamurugan was allegedly hit on the ears, beaten on his feet and legs as well as punched and kicked in the chest.

"It is Suhakam's view that the allegations of ill-treatment and torture corroborate the statements by both pathologists.

"The deceased had, among others, bruises and swelling on his eyes, a large bruise on his chest below his right nipple, swelling on his right ear, lacerations on his ears, injuries on his right chest muscle, blood clots on his right temple, back injuries and severe muscular injuries to his feet and ankles.

"The second pathologist indicated that he also found that the deceased had obvious bruises on his knees, fingers, back of his left lower leg, lower back and the back of his thighs," it said.

The conclusion released today was a culmination of a Suhakam probe involving 43 witnesses since Feb 10.

Suhakam said it identified numerous systemic failures on the part of the police in the treatment of detainees.

The commission also expressed concern over the manner in which two other suspects were detained with Balamurugan as they were under the age of 18.

"While the police must observe certain legal rights whenever they arrest or detain a child suspect, Suhakam’s investigation revealed that the police may have been in breach of Section 85 of the Child Act 2001 that stipulates appropriate arrangements shall be made to prevent a child while being detained in a police station from associating with an adult who is charged with an offence," it said.
 
Suhakam called on the authorities to investigate and prosecute the police officers responsible for the illegal detention and ill-treatment/torture of the victim.
The commission said that internal disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings should also be taken against those who violated the court order.

Suhakam added that the police must ensure that detention is done lawfully and investigations should be extended to similar incidences of abuse.

The commission also reiterated its recommendation to have a medical team on hand at police lock-ups.

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