A lawyer representing the family of a Nigerian student who died in the custody of the Immigration Department has slammed the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) for stating that the doctorate student’s death was not due to torture.
Representing Thomas Orhions Ewansiha’s wife, lawyer Rajesh Nagarajan said Suhakam’s revelation concerning the death of Ewansiha was “appaling”.
This followed Suhakam’s statement during a media conference today which revealed that interviews with forensics officers showed there were no wounds on the deceased to suggest that Ewansiha was tortured.
“We note with much concern and dismay that Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph has deemed it fit to pronounce that the death of Ewansiha was not due to torture,” said lawyer Rajesh Nagarajan in a statement.
Ewansiha, 34, died at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Depot on July 9.
He was detained during an Immigration operation in Desa Aman Puri, Kepong five days earlier.
The Immigration Department said the PhD student at Limkokwing University had experienced a seizure prior to his death but denied any foul play.
Rajesh represents Ewansiha’s wife, Blessing Uhunoma Eriamiator.
“There was no public inquiry into the death of Ewansiha. Neither the solicitors for the deceased nor the family members of the deceased, who are stakeholders, were involved in any investigation into the cause of Ewansiha’s death,” said the lawyer.
The Suhakam commissioner had said checks with all parties involved showed Ewansiha had died from heart failure.
“It’s a heart condition and a health issue…he was given medication, but the dosage was wrong,” Joseph had said.
“When the medical officer asked him about the type of medication he takes and showed him (the medication), Ewansiha confirmed that it was correct, but he was unsure of the dosage. He was given the correct medication, but the dosage given was half of what should have been prescribed,” he added.
Joseph also said when they checked with a private doctor, the medication was incomplete.
“I don’t blame the Immigration Department’s clinic but if you don’t bring a patient to the hospital, then the delay could cause serious health injury,” Joseph said.
Rajesh said issuing such a statement without informing the family was deplorable.
“Joseph has gone on record and released details of the medical issues surrounding Ewansiha’s death when such evidence should rightly be adduced by Immigration officers under oath in a court of law,” he said.
The lawyer added the statement by the Suhakam commissioner less than two weeks before the date of the inquest hearing may prejudice the proceedings and may influence the testimony of witnesses.
“It is inexcusable and unprecedented for a Suhakam commissioner to make such a finding without a public inquiry, merely two weeks before Ewansiha’s inquest,” he said.
In August, Ewansiha’s widow, Blessing Uhunoma Eriamiator, sought an inquest into his death claiming that her husband was assaulted while in custody, following testimony of witnesses.