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Dhaka Tribune

US report raises concerns over judicial loopholes

Update : 21 Apr 2013, 01:47 PM


The annual human rights report by the United States points at corruption as a “serious problem” in Bangladesh’s judicial system, which is under “political pressure” – the reason behind increasing public dissatisfaction in Bangladesh, claims the US.

The section on Bangladesh in the 2012 report says disappearances, discrimination against marginalised groups coupled with poor working conditions and labour rights are major problems in Bangladesh.

The report, prepared by the US State Department on the basis of reports by local NGOs and human rights bodies, was released Friday.

“The judiciary was subject to political pressure from the government, and cases involving opposition leaders often proceeded in an irregular fashion,” said the report on the State Department’s website. In several cases the Appellate Division overturned decisions granting bail to high-level corruption suspects who are leaders of opposition parties.

“Corruption remained a serious problem within the judiciary and was a factor in lengthy delays of trials, which were subject to witness tampering and intimidation of victims,” reads the report. “Several reports by human rights groups and corruption watchdog groups indicated growing public dissatisfaction with the perceived politicisation of the judiciary.”

It however, praised the government for initiating the process to improve professionalism in the police force, with training on discipline and responsiveness to reduce corruption. Citing how the Rapid Action Battalion or Rab established an internal affairs unit, 20 officers in the unit investigated 12 cases and took appropriate action by arresting three officers accused of misconduct. The police force is also praised for incorporating instructions on the use of force in basic training, part of a community-based policing campaign.

“Despite such efforts, security forces, including Rab, continued sometimes to commit abuses with impunity,” said the report adding plaintiffs were sometimes reluctant to accuse police in criminal cases due to lengthy trial procedures and fears of retribution. “Reluctance to bring charges against police also perpetuated a climate of impunity.”

Referring to political affiliations, as “sometimes a factor in the arrest and prosecution of members of the opposition parties,” but clarified no one was prosecuted solely for political reasons.

However, security forces, including Rab and police are reported to use torture, physical and psychological abuse during arrests and interrogations – which are prohibited in the Constitution. Quoting rights group Odhikar, the report said security forces used threats, beatings, and electric shock on at least 72 persons, killing seven but the government rarely charged, convicted, or punished those responsible. Stating, “Suspected extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and kidnappings continued, with human rights groups alleging the involvement of the country’s security services.”

It mentions how official corruption and related impunity is a problem in Bangladesh, saying, “Weak regard for the rule of law not only enabled individuals, including government officials, to commit human rights violations with impunity but also prevented citizens from claiming their rights.”

In addition the report states, “As in the previous year, the government did not take comprehensive measures to investigate and prosecute cases of security force killings.”

Individuals and groups could generally engage in the expression of views via the Internet.

“The government blocked some Facebook pages, including pages depicting the Prophet Muhammad [sm] and pages critical of both the prime minister and [the] opposition leader,” said the report.

Last September, Google was asked to remove a video “The Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube and access was blocked when it did not comply.

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