MALAYSIA: Death and Torture in Custody 


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-19-2003
ISSUES: Torture,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received a report on the continuous incidences of unlawful, ruthless and brutal assaults and deaths in Police lock-ups in Malaysia.

A report by the Police Watch and Human Rights Committee reveals the alarming figure of 2.2 people being killed or dying in Police lock-ups/detention centres every month. Most likely this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Police Watch and Human Rights Committee believes the true figure to be at least one person killed/dead per week because many cases are left unreported, or the families are unaware, or cases have not been reported in the media.

Various forms and levels of inhumane, degrading and cruel treatment are meted out to detainees. Many of the detainees in this group of 122 cases of assaults, beatings and torture whilst in detention, which have been reported by the Police Watch and Human Rights Committee, were lucky not to have died in custody. However, this fact does not mitigate, or lessen, their suffering from the long-term mental and physical side effects of the inhumane abuse carried out by the Police.

The report Assault and Death of Tharma Rajen A/L Subramaniam (19) and Hundreds of Others in Police Custody. Are We Heading Towards a Police State? is also available online at

Please also see our previous Urgent Appeals on the case of Tharma Rajen, who died in Police custody:

MALAYSIA: Death in police custody, investigation hampered – 2002-08-14

UPDATE (MALAYSIA): The Malaysian authorities have conducted inquest on Tharma Rajen’s case – 2002-09-04

Legal Aspects

There is no law in Malaysia which allows the Police to arbitrarily arrest, detain or kill an individual in Malaysia and yet no known member of the Police Force has ever been charged in a Court of Law for these crimes. Despite numerous appeals by the public, the Police Force in Malaysia continues to constantly violate Human Rights, in particular against people in their custody. The Royal Malaysian Police Force has taken the law into their own hands and is abusing, in particular, Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Emergency Ordinance.

Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides for the right of an arrested person to be detained for only 24 hours, which is the general rule. Only when the investigations cannot be completed within 24 hours (which is an exception) can the Police detain the arrested person further, up to a maximum of 15 days. In reality, detainees are frequently held for more than 24 hours.

The Emergency Ordinance 1969 (which is the sister legislation to the Internal Security Act) is also out of date, and very often abused by the Police Force. When evidence against the accused cannot be obtained under the regular laws, it is easy for the Police to detain the accused under the Emergency Ordinance, and then, using the Restricted Residence Act, send the accused to another town.

Recommended Action

1 Write letters to the authorities expressing your concern about the high number of deaths and torture in Police custody in Malaysia, and urging them to:

  • Work towards amending the 14 days Remand Period under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and reduce it to a seven (7) day maximum time frame. At any one time a detention order of not more than 48 hours should be given.
  • Work towards the abolition of The Emergency Ordinance 1969.
  • Set up an Independent External Police Complaints Tribunal or Disciplinary Board (under an amendment to the Police Act 1967).
  • Amend the Criminal Procedure Code and the Police Act to provide for the immediate suspension, investigation and then charging of the Police officers responsible for the death of a detainee in Police custody.
  • Make sure that every person detained by the Police or kept in a lock-up receives full and unlimited access to lawyers at any time, and immediate and prompt medical attention in any event. Within four (4) hours of the arrest, the detainee¡¯s next of kin/family/immediate friends and/or relatives and their lawyers should be given, in writing, the whereabouts of the detainee by the Police Force, and the reason for the arrest and the status of the detention thereto.

2 Write to the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) urging them to:

  • Conduct an open inquiry into all deaths in Police lock-ups over the last 10 years.
  • Conduct an open inquiry into all forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment carried out by the Police against detainees.

Send your letters to:

1 Minister of Home Affairs/Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,

Aras 13, Blok D1, Parcel D,

Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,

65202 Putrajaya, Selagor


Tel: 603 8888 1952

Fax: + 603 8886 8014


2 Prime Minister Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad

Prime Minister’s Office,

Federal Government Administration Centre,

62502 Putrajaya



3 Inspector General of Police

Tan Sri Norian Mai

Headquarters of Royal Police of Malaysia,

Bukit Aman, 50560 Kuala Lumpur


Tel: +603 2273 1326

Fax: +603 2272 2710

4 Chief Judge of High Court in Malaya

The Honourable Dato’ Haidar bin Mohd Noor

Chief Judge’s Chambers,

Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad,

Jalan Raja,

50506 Kuala Lumpur,


5 The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia SUHAKAM

29th Floor, Menara Tun Razak

Jalan Raja Laut

50350 Kuala Lumpur


Tel: +603 2612 5600

Fax: +603 2612 5620


Thank you.

AHRC Urgent Appeals Programme

Asian Human Rights Commission

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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-19-2003
Countries :
Issues : Torture,