Malaysian experts call for ban on strip-squat searches by police

A panel of Malaysian experts on Monday called for a ban on the rampant police practice of stripping detainees and making them squat in the nude, saying it infringes human rights and Muslim codes of decency. The government-appointed commission, in a report on its probe into a highly publicized video of a naked woman performing squats in police custody, also accused police of being insensitive and secretive about their procedures.

The practice of nude squats is prohibited by Islamic law "and a violation of the human rights provisions," said the report, made public Monday. "Asking someone to strip naked and to perform the (squats) violates the very essence of human conscience."

Police have said detainees in suspected drug cases and dangerous crimes are often ordered to strip and perform squats to ensure they are not concealing illegal items in body cavities. Conditional strip searches, if considered necessary, must be done privately in the presence of an investigating officer and an assistant, and the suspect should only be seminude at any one time, the panel said.

A warrant must be obtained for intimate searches for weapons or drugs that may be hidden in body cavities, and should only be conducted by medical personnel in a hospital, it added. The recommendations by the five-member panel, which comprises legal experts and politicians, weren't legally binding on the government, but were likely to be accepted because of a national outcry sparked by the nude video of the female detainee.

The incident was secretly recorded on a cell phone camera by an unidentified policeman who has since been suspended, and became widely circulated by late 2005. Rights activists said the video bolstered claims that police routinely mistreat suspects. The commission said its probe highlighted a lack of publicly available information on the police force's procedures and its powers over detainees, as well as avenues for people to make complaints against officers.

"This deficiency points toward a lack of transparency and accountability," the report said. "The (police force) remains resistant to change and insensitive toward the most fundamental of human rights and dignity." The commission urged the government to create laws clarifying procedures for body searches and to set up a permanent independent panel to investigate grievances against the police, reports the AP. N.U.