(Malaysiakini) Penang Suaram has expressed concern that the absence of police action on deaths in their custody will result in more of such cases taking place in the future.
The human rights NG0's state-based coordinator Lee Hui Fei (left) said the problem may be so rampant that it becomes a "norm" in the country.
Since last year, Lee said, 10 people have died in custody while 25 others perished as a result of police shooting.
She said the existence of the 1958 Lock-up Procedures Act lays the responsibility on the police to ensure that detainees remain well and healthy.
However, Suaram has been receiving complaints about incidents of police torture and abuses, filthy lock-up conditions, midnight or early dawn interrogations, Lee told a press conference in George Town yesterday .
"Police cannot escape their responsibilities when a death in custody case occurs.
"If this situation continues, with more and more people dying in the hands of police and with no investigation or follow-up conducted, we worry that such human rights abuses will become widespread," she added.
She was speaking during a session in Komtar where the family of Cheah Chin Lee, who died in the police lock-up last month, submitted a memorandum to Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Sha'ari Abdullah.
The meeting was hosted by state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow, who is also Tanjung MP and state DAP chief.
Suhakam roped in to assist
Cheah's mother Lim Gaik Suan and aunt Leanne (above, right) complained to Muhammad Sha'ani about police inaction and the absence of information on how Cheah died after only 20 minutes in the lock-up.
He was arrested on Aug 13 for suspected motorcycle robbery and was found dead "by aphyxsia from hanging" in the Tanjong Tokong police station lock-up.
George Town OCPD Gan Kong Meng denied any police cover-up and said an inquest on Cheah's death would be pursued upon the police getting the forensic and chemist reports.
Urging Suhakam to set up a public inquest into the untimely death of the 36-year-old furniture worker, Lee said the inquest should also determine whether the police had complied with their standard operating procedures in this instance.
"There is also a need to find out if there was any human rights abuse," she said. "We must find ways to ensure the security of detainees so that there will be no more mysterious deaths in the police lock-up."
Also yesterday, in Simpang Renggam, Johor, another family had lodged a report over the suspicious death of P Chandran, 47, in the lock-up of the Dang Wangi district police station in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Chandran's brother Gunalan, who lodged the report at the Simpang Renggam police station, said there were discrepancies over the time of the lorry driver's death, as well as unexplained wounds in several parts of his body.