Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi must provide a detailed account of the steps that have been taken to combat the occurrence of custodial deaths, said Malaysian Bar Council president Steven Thiru.
"The Malaysian Bar calls upon the IGP and the minister to now provide a comprehensive account of the steps that have been taken in the intervening 17 months, and account for the failure of the measures intended to eradicate the occurrence of deaths in custody," he said in a statement today.
His statement follows the IGP's recent pledge to take action against any police personnel who were involved in the custodial death of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur.
Thiru is concerned that the IGP's announcement may be a ‘mere platitude’, as custodial deaths have continued unabated.
This is despite reports in May 2013 that the IGP would personally head a special committee established to prevent custodial deaths, he noted.
Thiru pointed out that even Ahmad Zahid had proposed several measures to stop occurrences of custodial deaths at that time, such as holding detainees in centralised holding centres, installing CCTVs in all holding cells and re-evaluating the standard operating procedures for police interrogations.
A year later in May 2014, the minister had announced that CCTVs would indeed be installed in all police lock-ups.
Now, Thiru is urging them to reveal in detail what other steps have been taken since then.
"The police must be pro-active in ensuring that the wrongful actions of some among them do not tarnish the standing of the whole force.
"Unless this is addressed, the police force will unfortunately remain a diminished institution in the eyes of the public.
"The Malaysian Bar calls on the IGP to take concrete and immediate action, as this is a matter of utmost public interest that warrants the highest level of priority," he said.
Government authorities also need to further strengthen the standard operating procedures of detention and custody to ensure the safety and welfare of detainees, Thiru said.
The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) released a report on Oct 30 that physical violence from the police during investigations was the cause of death of Syed Azlan on Nov 3, 2014.
Syed Azlan was detained on Nov 3 last year in Johor and brought to the Sungai Rengit police station.
Later that day, he was found dead. A post-mortem showed that he had died from a blunt force trauma to the chest, with a total of 61 injuries on his body.
The EAIC had discovered that his death was related to police physical violence and that police personnel had tampered with the evidence at the crime scene and hid witnesses.