Five hundred petition Singapore government to reopen prison death inquest

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Singapore – A petition signed by more than 500 people both here and abroad has called on the Singapore ministers for law and home affairs to reopen an inquest into a prison death here.

Last night, activists from the Justice for Dinesh Campaign released a video interview with Madam Selvi filmed in September. She said, “The other seven persons must come to the court. The judge must give good reasons; what type of punishment to give to the seven persons.”*

Madam Selvi, who is represented by human rights lawyer, Mr M Ravi, goes to the High Court here today to petition for the reopening of the inquest.

Dinesh Raman, who was due for release in December 2010, died of positional asphyxiation in September 2010, following what the Prison Service claimed was an unprovoked attack on a prison officer.

The slim, 51kg 20 year old was subdued with pepper spray and overpowered by eight officers. He was left unresponsive in a prone position in an isolation cell. The Prison Service admitted it did nothing beyond splash water in his face. Shortly before lunch on the same day, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Cause of death was recorded as “cardio pulmonary failure, pending investigation”.

Photographs of the deceased released with the family’s permission showed extensive bruising to the face and body.** Speaking of the photographs, mother, Madam Selvi Narayanasamy, said, “I can feel how my son suffered before he died.”*

Research funded by the US Department of Justice in 2004 have produced tentative findings that positional asphyxiation can be a contributor to death.*** Rachel Zeng, a spokesperson for the Justice For Dinesh Campaign, noted, “Given the lack of information available, contradictory media reports, and fresh data such as this, the circumstances leading up to the tragedy remain unclear.”

The Home Ministry conducted an internal Committee of Inquiry and disciplinary proceedings against the eight officers. Neither report was made public.

Subsequent government statements and media reports contained contradictory accounts of the death.

One prison officer was convicted of negligence and fined S$10,000. The Home Ministry claims the other seven have been redeployed to non-operational duties.

Following the criminal proceedings, the State Coroner decided to abandon his inquest.

Government officials met with the family on numerous occasions to attempt to convince them to give up their desire for an inquest. A government press release in August claims the mother sought “windfall damages”. Madam Selvi strongly denies this: “I want to know what happened to my son,” she said.

In June, Madam Selvi petitioned the Attorney General to reopen the inquest on the grounds that with a guilty plea entered in the criminal proceedings, the cause and circumstances of Dinesh’s death were never established. She was turned down.

 

* Video interview with mother available for viewing at: http://youtu.be/rlRExTSMnZs

** Detailed timeline dossier of the case (with photos) is available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/175887807/Dinesh-Raman-Timeline-With-Photos

*** Deaths in Police Confrontations When Oleoresin Capsicum is Used by Charles S. Petty M.D. Published by USA Department of Justice, February 2004. Available at http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/showdoc.html?id=4705