Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Time’s up for police brutality?

Inspired by cop withdrawals, victims are finally speaking up

Update : 07 Dec 2023, 08:56 AM

Several victims, who remained silent for years after being harassed or abused by police, have started to speak up following the speedy action by the government against police officials allegedly involved in the murder of former army officer Major (retd) Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan.

Just after the incident, several victims have filed complaints against law enforcement officials for allegedly torturing, abusing or harassing them.

At least seven police personnel, including former Teknaf police station officer-in-charge (OC) Pradeep Kumar Das and Inspector Liakat Ali, were suspended in connection with the killing of Sinha that took place at Shamlapur check post on the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive road in Baharchara union on July 31.

The killing became the talk of the town on social media, with victims speaking of abuse and harassment they allegedly suffered from police officials.

In the last three weeks, several police officials between the ranks of superintendent of police (SP) of divisional range to officer-in-charge to assistant sub-inspectors have been sued in different cases while many officials were withdrawn from active duty by Bangladesh Police following numerous allegations against them.

On August 13, Lalmonirhat Sadar Police Station OC Mahfuz Alam was transferred to Dhaka Tourist Police after a video clip of receiving bribe to record a false case went viral on social media.

On August 11, Barguna’s Bamna police station OC Ilias Hossain Talukder was withdrawn from duty for slapping an assistant sub-inspector, who reportedly refused to charge batons on protestors during a human chain program. The suspension came after the video of the incident went viral on social media and drew widespread criticism.

On the same day, the then Cox's Bazar Sadar police station OC Shahjahan Kabir was suspended after an alleged drug peddler reportedly died in police custody.

Mizanur Rahman, the then officer-in-charge of Durgapur police station in Netrokona, was withdrawn and attached to the Netrokona Police Line for beating up a Jubo League leader inside the police station.

On August 9, Pabna’s Aminpur police station OC Mainuddin was withdrawn and attached to Pabna Police Line on allegations of leaking call records of some local government representatives in exchange of bribes.

Pabna’s Mithapukur police station OC Zafar Ali Biswas was withdrawn on August 8 for negligence of duty.

People speak up against ‘bad cops’

After former Teknaf police station OC Pradeep Kumar Das was taken into police custody, locals in the area could finally raise their voices against him following years of silence.

Human rights campaigners have long been criticizing his activities due to the sheer number of extrajudicial killings that took place under his jurisdiction.

In the name of “gunfight,” “crossfire,” or “shootouts,” subordinates of Pradeep were involved in at least 56% of the extrajudicial killings of the total 287 extrajudicial killings that took place between May 4, 2018, and July this year in the entire Cox’s Bazar district.

On August 5, Sinha’s sister, Sharmin Shahriar Ferdous, filed a case with the Senior Judicial Magistrate Court of Teknaf against nine policemen, including Pradeep.

On August 6, seven of the accused surrendered in court, which sent them to jail after scrapping their bail pleas. Since Pradeep was taken into police custody, at least three cases were filed against him on murder charges.

On August 18, a woman called Gol Cheher filed a case against 28 people including Pradeep with Cox’s Bazar Senior Judicial Magistrate Court as her son was reportedly shot dead by police.

On August 12, one Hamida Akhter filed a murder case against 29 people including six cops including Pradeep with the Senior Judicial Magistrate Court in Maheshkhali upazila of Cox's Bazar in connection with killing of her husband in a reported gunfight in 2017.

The court dismissed the complaint, however, it asked a police officer of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), equivalent to the rank of additional superintendent, to investigate the complaint.

On the same day, Golam Mostofa, a businessman filed a case with a Dhaka court against Md Belayet Hossain, superintendent of police (SP) of Rajshahi range, accusing him of extortion and physical assault.

On August 12, the same day, a businessman Sohel Mir filed a case with a Dhaka court against six people, including five policemen from Kotwali police station and its officer in charge Mizanur Rahman, accusing them of demanding Tk3.5 lakh as extortion after threatening to kill him in a “crossfire” and framing him in a case.

On August 13, five policemen of Akhaura police station in Brahmanbaria were sued for extorting money by threatening to kill a Bangladeshi expatriate in “crossfire.”

On the same day, a former sub-inspector of Kadamtali Police Station in Dhaka and eight others were named in a case filed with a Dhaka court for alleged abduction and extortion from a businessperson.

On August 17, Chakaria police station OC Habibur Rahman and Harbang Police Outpost in-charge Inspector Aminul Islam under Cox's Bazar district were sued in a case filed with a court for allegedly picking up an expatriate from the Patiya upazila and killing him in a shootout after failing to extort Tk50 lakh from his family.

On August 19, a case was filed against nine, including eight police officers including Bayezid police station inspector (investigation) Mohammad Shahidul Islam, allegedly for falsely incriminating a business person and three of his relatives, threatening them with deaths in crossfire and demanding extortions.

Administrative punishment not the solution

In July last year, the High Court encouraged caution by law enforcement officials in the course of their duties, saying the law enforcement agencies should ensure all legal facilities for the accused during their arrest.

Citing police policy, the US State Department in its 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Bangladesh said all significant uses of force by police, including actions that resulted in serious physical injury or death, triggered an automatic internal investigation, usually done by a professional standards unit that reports directly to the Inspector General of Police.

“The government neither released statistics on total killings by security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases. In the few known instances in which the government brought charges, those found guilty generally received only administrative punishment,” it adds.

Former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Professor Dr Mizanur Rahman said general people always fear being harassed again if they lodge complaints against police.

“But, now, they are showing the courage to speak against any injustice by police, but they are not visiting police stations yet where they shall go first to report fearing further harassment,” he said.

“As you see, most people are visiting courts with hopes of justice against police abuse. Although only a few people are showing courage, it is a reflection of how the police force has abused their power over time. Now the complaints shall be investigated properly and unruly police members shall receive exemplary punishment if found guilty, instead of petty punishment,” he said.

Dhaka Tribune called Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Police Headquarters Assistant Inspector General Sohel Rana for their comment in this regard, but the calls remain unanswered.

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