COMMENT | As Suaram launches its 19th Annual Human Rights Report on Malaysia for 2016, it is vital that we see the whole picture of human rights violations in Malaysia in 3D - deaths, detentions and disappearances, and more…
In Suaram’s overview of the Human Rights Report at the end of 2016, we reported only two additional deaths in police custody. However, a parliamentary reply has since revealed that there were 15 deaths in police custody in 2016.
The Home Ministry has also stated that between 2000 and 2016, there were 284 deaths in police custody. These are apparently only deaths in police lock-ups. There are also deaths which occur when prisoners are in transit.
Then again, there are deaths of suspects in the custody of enforcement agencies, such as what happened to Teoh Beng Hock. In addition, there were 54 deaths through police shootings in 2016.
These statistics do not take into account deaths in prisons. Official statistics show that in the 40 months from 2013 to 30 April 2016, a total of 721 prisoners died in custody, representing an average of 18 deaths in custody per month.
According to the government, the primary cause of death was as a result of diseases such as HIV, cancer, cardiac arrest, blood problems, tuberculosis and asthma.
However, deaths in prisons do not include those in immigration detention centres. On May 16, 2017, The Guardian in London highlighted the deaths of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysian immigration detention centres, putting the figure at two dozen since 2015, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
But these do not include undocumented workers. According to Suhakam in its 2016 annual report, 118 foreigners, including undocumented workers, refugees and asylum seekers, had died at detention centres in the last two years. More than half the dead were from Myanmar.
There are also deaths outside of police lock-ups, prisons and immigration centres. The discovery in 2015 of mass graves and trafficking camps at Wang Kelian, in the north of Peninsular Malaysia, provided grim evidence of current realities. The Malaysian police announced the discovery of 139 grave sites in 28 detention camps used by human traffickers. These were in addition to the ones already discovered by the Thai authorities on their side of the border.
Few responsible for running and enabling these camps have been brought to justice: a continuing blot on the record of the Malaysian government. The US annual Trafficking in Persons Report continues to highlight the connection between the vulnerability of refugee and migrant worker populations coming to Malaysia and human trafficking activities.
The report questions to what extent the authorities in Malaysia are working systematically and directly with refugee and migrant populations to gather evidence of the atrocities so as to identify and prosecute the criminals...