PETALING JAYA: Amending the Prison Act to allow suspects to be held in lock-ups for a maximum of two months instead of one now can lead to more deaths in custody, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said today.

If the amendments to Section 7 of the Prison Act 1995 are passed through Parliament, the Home Minister will have the power to confine suspects held under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) in a lock-up for a maximum of 60 days.

Under the current Act, individuals awaiting trial or undergoing police probe may be remanded in police and court house lock-ups for a maximum of one month.

“We are concerned that doubling the number of days in lockups will result in more brutality and deaths in police custody,” said LFL legal campaign coordinator Michelle Yesudas in a statement today.

“We have seen lock-ups being transformed into a killing field for suspects. Many individuals have been tortured to death or died under unlawful circumstances in police lockups.

“We cannot forget N Dhamendran, A Kugan and Karuna Nithi who died in police custody,” she said.

She noted that the situation could only turn worse if PCA detainees were forced to spend more time in lock-ups.

“Needless to say, police station and court house lock-ups are not suitable and properly equipped to detain individuals for long periods of time,” said Yesudas.

Instead, she suggested that suspects who must be remanded for more than a month be transferred to a permanent location that was well-equipped.

She added that such a move would also be a relief to the police as well.

“It will be cumbersome for the police to manage a suspect twice as long in the police lock-up,” said Yesudas.

The Prison (Amendment) Bill 2013 is scheduled for its second reading today.

Parliament early this month passed amendments to the PCA, which includes provisions involving detention without trial and restrictions under judicial review.

Anisah Shukry, The Malaysian Insider