Police custodians were preventing detainees from receiving medical treatment, resulting in death of some inmates, according to the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

In its report on deaths in detentions, Suhakam found the two-thirds of detainees with health problems were not given medical attention because the police did not believe that they were suffering from a real illness, Malay Mail reported.

Only one-third of the detainees interviewed said they were allowed to go through medical checkups when they arrive at the prison, and the rest said they were denied any medical treatment, according to the commission.

“It is also worth noting that the so-called medical checkup was only verbal and conducted by the investigating officers and not by medical officers,” Suhakam noted in its report.

A total of 255 cases of custodial deaths were recorded by Suhakam from 2000 to 2014, with almost eight in 10 cases due to health complications.

“We were told that the evaluation on whether or not detainees are sick were heavily influenced by prejudice because a lot of the officers believed the detainees pretended to be sick out of boredom, or as an excuse to enjoy time outside if they are brought to a hospital,” the report added.

One possible contributor to the deaths of detainees is the pitiable condition of detention centres in the country, according to Suhakam Vice President Datuk Dr. Khaw Lake Tee.

Last year, deaths in police detention made headlines after opposition lawmakers drew attention to the issue in Parliament. They called for laws to be passed that will make police officers and the government accountable for deaths and injuries in custody.

Police data showed there were only two cases of deaths due to physical abuse from 2000 to 2014 despite worrying reports of deaths in detention, according to Suhakam. However, Khaw said the exact number of deaths by physical abuse was hard to determine since the commission had no access to police data.

“What we have are the information given by the police,” she explained. MIMS