A human rights lawyer says a Court of Appeal decision on a death-in-custody case has not served justice and gives the impression the police are above the law.
On Friday, the Court of Appeal, headed by a three-person panel consisting of Abu Samah Nordin, Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus and Aziah Ali, decided to set aside a 2009 High Court decision which had found the police liable for the death of Mohd Anuar Sarip, 31, and had awarded the family some RM1.5 million in damages.
Human rights lawyer P Uthayakumar said his client, Suzana Md Aris, the widow of the Mohd Anuar, who died more than 10 years ago while being remanded in the Rawang police station, was devastated yesterday and was “immediately speechless”.
“Despite 12 years waiting for justice in respect of her husband who was ‘killed’ after police beat him to death, she has to hear the awful decision from the court,” said Uthayakumar.
He said the Court of Appeal ruling on a death-in-custody case, was akin to “condoning the various police abuses that are occurring in the country”.
Uthayakumar, the Human Rights Party (HRP) pro tem secretary-general, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision which would “send a wrong signal that the Royal Malaysian Police are above the law”.
“The judgment amounts to just that. Are the courts condoning the abuse of police powers, the continuing of the countless deaths in police custody, and the police shoot-to-kill policy?” asked Uthayakumar.
He said the Court of Appeal ‘s reason was that the victim was a drug addict.
“So what does that mean? That he deserved to die in the police lock-up?”asked Uthayakumar.
He said other grounds cited was that Mohd Anuar had a pre-condition of pneumonia, but he argued that no one should die in police custody, but rather in a hospital.
Full scale cover-up
Uthayakumar also said the court also reasoned that a clinic which treated Mohd Anuar was not cited as a party in the law suit, but he argued that the family had no way of knowing that fact as the police had “stonewalled us all the way”.
“We wrote about 20 letters, but all the relevant documents were never given to us. There was no way we knew that a hospital had treated him, it was only revealed in court later. An inquest should have been held in the first place,” said Uthayakumar.
He alleged that Mohd Anuar’s death was a “full scale cover-up” by the police, with the collusion of the medical authorities.
“The court also ruled that when Mohd Anuar had vomited blood the police brought him to a clinic and were therefore negligent as the hospital attendant did not refer him to a doctor or got him admitted to a hospital,” said Uthayakumar.
On Friday , the Court of Appeal delivered its decision on an appeal by the government and former Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai over a High Court decision to award RM1.4 million in damages to Suzana after finding the former negligent over the death of Mohd Anuar.
Last June, the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted the damages to Suzana, 44.
On Oct 20, 2009, High Court judge Kang Hwee Ghee had ruled that the police had been negligent after failing to take reasonable steps to aid Mohd Anuar, who was in the Rawang police lock-up on suspicion of being a drug addict.
Mohd Anuar, a trader at a wet market, died in the lock-up in August 1999 due to lung complications; specifically, his cause of death was “massive pleural effusion secondary to bronchalpneumonia”.
Suzana had filed the law suit in 2000 against DSP Ishak Hussin, then the Gombak CID chief, the district police chief ACP Massari Hashim, and Norian as well as the government.
The High Court had later dismissed the summons against the two lower-ranked officers (Ishak and Massari) and ruled that only the former IGP and government are responsible for paying the damages.
Uthayakumar said he would be filing an appeal to the Federal Court against the Court of Appeal decision.