KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--On Monday we raised 12 questions about the way the police (PDRM) are handling deaths in PDRM custody. That was our response to 7 statements by the Integrity Department (JIPS) of PDRM which announced 7 deaths in police custody in 5 weeks.

Yesterday we read a report by Bernama, the national news agency, titled Satu dari tujuh kes kematian tahanan ada unsur jenayah (“One in seven deaths in custody has a criminal element.”)

The report claims to be based on a press conference held yesterday by the Director of JIPS, Datuk Azri Ahmad.

According to the report, PDRM will refer six cases, which PDRM has determined have no criminal elements, to the Attorney General’s Chambers for directions on whether or not inquests must be held.

We are shocked.

Did PDRM report the deaths to coroners? Is PDRM unaware that coroners are bound by law and Chief Justice’s Directives to conduct inquests?

Is it possible that over the years the Attorney General’s Chambers has been contravening section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code? This is the section in full, with the relevant parts underlined:

“334 Inquiry into cause of death of a person in custody of police or in any asylum

“When any person dies while in the custody of the police or in a psychiatric hospital or prison, the officer who had the custody of that person or was in charge of that psychiatric hospital or prison, as the case may be, shall immediately give intimation of such death to the nearest Magistrate [Coroner, since 8 April 2014, vide Chief Justice Directive], and the Magistrate or some other Magistrate shall, in the case of a death in the custody of the police, and in other cases may, if he thinks expedient, hold an inquiry into the cause of the death.”_

It is clear that conduct of an inquest into a death in police custody is NOT optional. We reproduce below the parts we underlined above:

“… the [Coroner] … shall, in the case of a death in the custody of the police, ... hold an inquiry into the cause of death.”

Yet, based on data revealed in parliament, we know that since 2014 coroners have routinely failed to conduct such inquiries (inquests).

CAGED calls upon Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to respond to this question: Is your Chamber's giving wrong directions to PDRM and coroners?