Malaysia Abuse Claims Drive Agency to Call for Urgent Fixes

The agency tasked with investigating abuse by Malaysia’s security forces said that claims of fatal abuse against foreign maids—including Cambodians—at a detention center were untrue, though it said the center where the abuse allegedly occurred was in urgent need of attention.

Following a “surprise” visit last Monday to the Juru detention center in Penang state, the nominally independent Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) told Malaysian media outlets on Friday that it found no evidence of physical abuse at the center. However, it found that some security cameras at the prison had not been working since 2014 and said conditions at the center required “urgent attention.”

The inspection came in response to claims made by two Cambodian maids who were detained at the center upon returning to Cambodia. In an interview with The Cambodia Daily, one of the maids said detainees were often hit and kicked by guards at the center and that fellow inmates died there—possibly from their injuries.

The EAIC chairman Yaacob Md Sam said that the only deaths at the center over the past year were due to disease, and said there was no evidence of physical abuse.

“Based on our investigations, claims that five Cambodian women and two Vietnamese women were hurt due to the excessive use of force by immigration officers at the Juru depot have been found to be baseless,” Mr. Yaacob said, according to the Free Malaysia Today news website.

However, the agency called for urgent action to address other problems at the center, mainly overcrowding and the fact that 19 closed-circuit cameras had been broken since 2014, the article said.

“We have recommended that the Home Ministry expedite the building of a new detention camp, in view of the present dilapidated state of the depot,” Mr. Yaacob told Free Malaysia Today. Intended to hold a maximum of 500 inmates, the center currently housed 595, including 472 men and 123 women, according to the agency.

Mr. Yaacob said that only one detainee was Cambodian—an 18-year-old who was found with invalid travel documents, who told the agency that guards had treated her well.

Malaysia’s Immigration Department also said that the abuse claims were false after a snap investigation of the center earlier this month.

Moeun Tola, head of the Cambodian labor rights group Central, which helped return the maids who reported the alleged abuse at Juru, said he was not satisfied with the response from Malaysia’s government.

“I don’t trust at all their findings. The investigation sounds to us like it’s not independent at all,” Mr. Tola said.

“I feel that the Malaysian government is trying to clean away these allegations. If you look at the maids who returned, they don’t have any interest at all to falsely claim torture or other violations there.”

Mr. Tola said that an in-depth, transparent and independent investigation was needed.

“What we learned from other NGOs in Malaysia, they also confirmed that Juru has a lot of human rights problems, torture and so on,” he said.

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