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Jan 25, 2008


Death in Custody of Goh Yan Peaw with Impunity

Suaram calls on the government to hold an inquest immediately into the death of Goh Yan Peaw on January 20 during the period he was held by the police in custody in Segamat.

According to a news report in Sin Chew Jit Poh, Goh Yan Peaw was arrested together with his wife and brother by the police on 9 January 2008 at their house in Segamat. They were held under the Emergency Ordinance for allegedly hiding drugs, bombs, porno tapes and fireworks.

Goh Yan Peaw was sent to Johor police headquarters for investigation the next day after his arrest. On 16 January, he was brought to Magistrate’s court in Segamat, which granted the police a remand order of seven days for Goh Yan Peaw.

According to Segamat OCPD Abdul Majid, Goh was brought back to the Segamat police lock-up on January 19. At about 4.00am in the morning, Goh was found unconscious in the detention cell and died after he was sent to hospital. The police told the family that Goh had died from a fall in toilet.

However, Goh’s mother showed a medical certificate which indicated the result of a recently completed medical check-up of Goh, certifying that he was in good health. Goh’s wife, who last met her husband when they were brought to the Segamat Magistrate’s court for remand application, said that she found Goh to have lost a lot of weight, his face was pale, his lips were in light purple color and his eyes seemed to have swelled.

Suaram finds the reason given the police unconvincing and unsatisfactory. How could a fall in a toilet in police station led to a fatal death? The stories of the family members further suggest that Goh Yan Peaw may have been subjected to torture and inhumane treatment while in police custody.

The case warrants an immediate and thorough inquest by the Magistrate’s court to establish the real reason for the death of Goh Yan Peaw and whether the police had tortured him and contributed to his death. Those police officers involved in the death of Goh should be booked to justice.

While Goh may be a suspect of serious crime, all suspects should be treated as innocent before proven guilty. The crime of the suspect should be established by the court and the police should never be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

We call on the Magistrate’s Court to hold an inquest as soon as possible, and no later than a month, as suggested by the Royal Commission on the reform of the police force. The inaction of the Chambers of the Attorney General and the Magistrate’s Court for an inquest would only encourage impunity among the police force, as evident in the high number of death in custody cases in 2007.

There were 11 cases of death in custody in 2007, of which not a single case has had an inquest conducted to investigate the possible foul play of the police and the real cause of death.

We further call on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to realize his promise in reforming the police force and heed the recommendations of the Royal Police Commission, among them the setting up of the Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), a coroner’s court and the abolition of the Emergency Ordinance.

Detention without trial and the absence of judicial checks and balances under the Emergency Ordinance will only perpetuate the culture of torture in the police force. This is probably unfortunately proven to be true in the case of Goh where he was detained under the Emergency Ordinance initially and only later brought to court under the normal criminal proceedings, which was too late to save his life.

Yap Swee Seng
Executive Director


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