Statement on yet another death in police custody

Press release

12 August 1999

Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor is concerned about reports revealed today that a suspect has died while in police detention. His death is the latest in a series of similar police custody deaths that have come to light this year.

The circumstances of the suspect's death in Tseung Kwan O Police Station today are extremely suspicious. It is reported that the deceased fell to his death, as a result of falling two feet from his bed in the cell. Without further, such an explanation raises serious concerns that this is another case of police brutality.

Human Rights Monitor calls upon the Police Force to undertake an immediate and thorough investigation the incident. However, we are also concerned that the current system of investigating police actions is carried out by the police themselves without any effective external checks. If the police investigation exonerates the police involved, it will further undermine the credibility and independence of Complaints Against Police Office because it is quite difficult for a reasonable person to believe the improbable explanation for the suspect's death. We again call for a reform of the investigation system itself.

Finally, Human Rights Monitor is concerned that the Government generally informs family members, only minutes prior to the autopsy in the morgue by giving them a printed note, of their right to have their own doctors present at the autopsy. We call upon the Government to respect the rights of the family by giving them adequate notice of the time autopsy and the right of family members to have their own doctor present at the autopsy, and adequate time for their doctor to arrive to the morgue. Observation by outside and independent doctors is especially important, given past criticism that the forensic pathologists of the Department of Health have been too close to the police and their independence and credibility have been called into question.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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