Torture in custody remains unabated despite being outlawed in the constitution, says Ain O Salish Kendra
No fewer than 33 people have died in custody till June this year and, of them, 30 were victims of extrajudicial killings, according to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).
Meanwhile, 238 people died in custody last year. 222 of them were victims of extrajudicial killings, while the rest died after reportedly being tortured.
The rights body presented the information in a virtual webinar, “Consequences of Torture in Bangladesh: Obstacles to Ensuring Justice for Tortured Victims and Their Families”, on Saturday.
ASK Director (programs) Nina Goswami made a brief presentation on the current situation of torture and deaths in custody in the country.
“Most of the time, the victim [of torture] or his family does not take legal action fearing for their safety. Those who dare to sue [the wrongdoers] are harassed and threatened and face various obstacles in the way of getting justice,” she said.
ASK Executive Director Golam Monwar Kamal said: “Torture in custody was outlawed in Bangladesh's post-independence constitution in 1971, long before the UN Convention against Torture was signed. Article 35(5) of the constitution states that no person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“However, allegations of physical and mental torture by members of the police, police intelligence, RAB or other law enforcement agencies during remand period are regularly reported by the media.”
The meeting also noted that there was a conflict of interest as police were tasked with investigating such cases.
The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013, enacted in light of the constitution and the UN Convention against Torture, was an excellent law, but its proper implementation was not being ensured, Mohammad Golam Sarwar, assistant professor at Dhaka University, stated.
In his remarks, noted journalist, writer and columnist Abu Saeed Ahmed said there was no alternative to “true journalism” to curb the number of extrajudicial killings.
“Our media is plagued by many issues. On the one hand, there is the tyranny of corporate houses where business interests reign supreme, while on the other hand, countless online media outlets, which do not have a modicum of ethics, are popping up like mushrooms,” he said.
“Moreover, true journalists are unable to do their job due to external pressure and are forced to practise self-censorship,” he added.