Friday, 26 August 2011

Violation of human rights in police custody rampant

Md Abdul Kader, a student of Dhaka University,was too injured to move alone because of police torture and he had to beproduced before a High Court bench on a wheel chair on July 28.

In the court, Kader described how police tortured himbrutally in custody, violating human rights (HR).
In fact, violation of human rights in police custody hasbecome a regular phenomenon in the country, ignoring a HC judgment passed eightyears ago. The constitutional and the international covenantal safeguards toprevent torture are also being violated in the police custody, according tolegal experts.

Experts blamed the high ups of the state for consideringthemselves above law and such disregard for law is slowly leading the countryto a failed state.
Under Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC),police take accused persons under its custody to extract information. Due toabuse of the law, the detained persons fall victim to physical and mentaltorture in custody. Many died failing to bear the torture.

Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK), a human rights body, recordedthe death of 68 persons in jail custody in 2008, 58 in 2009 and 20 in 2010.

According to Odhikar, another human rights body, 852 personsdied at the hand of law enforcers from January, 2004 to May, 2010. Of them, 420persons died under police custody and 364 under RAB custody. They died incrossfire, encounter and police custody, said Odhikar report.

It also recorded 84 deaths in custody in the first sixmonths of this year. Of them, 61 persons died in jail. A sick 18- month oldchild was also kept with her mother in prison, where she died within 12 daysdue to lack of treatment. Nine persons were allegedly tortured to death bypolice during the period, Odhikar report said.

To stop any torture or degrading treatment in policecustody, the HC in a landmark verdict on April 7, 2003 gave 15-pointdirections, ordering to interrogate detainees in glass-partitioned room inpresence of their lawyers and relatives so that they can see what is happeninginside, said concerned lawyers. 

Until such rooms are constructed, they (detainees) wouldhave to be interrogated in a room of jail, the judgment said.

A HC bench comprising Justice Md Hamidul Haque and JusticeSalma Masud Chowdhury delivered the judgment upon a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and others inNovember 1998.

The judgment found two sections of CrPC regarding arrest andinterrogation inconsistent with the constitution. It directed to bring somerecommended changes to the law within six months and implement the 15-pointdirectives immediately. 

Later, the government appealed against the judgment andsecured stay on operation of the recommendation, not the 15-point directions.As a result, the directions remain in force, Advocate Md Idrisur Rahman, one ofthe lawyers for the petitioners in the case, said.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) ordered thegovernment to carry out the 15-point directions literally, Advocate Rahmanadded.

Unfortunately, the directions have remained ignored for thelast eight years depriving the people of justice ensured by the higher courtand giving a chance for police to torture people in custody, said IdrisurRahman.
When contacted last week, Home Secretary Abdus SobhanSikder, one of the respondents directed to comply with the directions, saiddetainees are not interrogated inside the jail, rather outside places includingpolice stations. Some of them are quizzed at the gate of jail only when courtsordered to do so, he added.

However, the home secretary could not confirm whether anyglass-walled house was built in the country.
According to the directives, remanded persons must bechecked before and after interrogation to know their physical condition. If anyevidence of torture was found, magistrates will take legal action againstconcerned police members under section 330 of Penal Code. 

A study by BLAST in 2007 revealed that all the 17magistrates interviewed said police normally never submit such medicalcertificates.

Torture in police custody is violation of not only the HCdirections but also the human rights protected in Article 35 of the country'sconstitution and some international covenants, which the government ratifiedand obliged to follow.

The international HR safeguards include Article 5 of UnitedNations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), Article 7 of InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UN Convention againstTorture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT).

Advocate Dr Shahdeen Malik said the accused including thelawyers were regularly being tortured and also killed in police custody intotal disregard of the 2003 judgment, the constitution and laws.

Mentioning recommendation of a minister to issue drivinglicense without examination, Dr Shahdeen Malik said, "When the stateconsiders itself above law, the society becomes lawless." The lawenforcers are left with nothing to do when the society and the policy makersdon't abide by law, he added.

"With continuous disobeying of law, the country isclearly and may be slowly moving to a failed one," Dr Malik added.

Advocate Idrisur Rahman said police were abusing the section167 of CrPC at will. Firstly the magistrates violated the HC directions indelivering remand-related orders, he said, stressing on a joint effort of thegovernment, law enforcers and judges for implementing the directions properlyin the interest of the people.

Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Prof DrMizanur Rahman appearing before a HC bench on July 28 said the incident oftorture on DU student Abdul Kadar was an example of the nature and behaviour oflaw enforcing agencies and their treatment in custody.

During hearing on Kadar's bail petition at a Dhaka judge court recently, former Law Minister Advocate AbdulMatin Khasru MP said police dress didn't suit to the miscreants (torturerpolice members). 
The New Nation 

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