The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has instructed its forensic doctors not to provide the media with detailed autopsy reports on persons killed in crossfire, following a written request from the DMP.
DGHS, an associate of the Health Ministry, served a letter in this regard on November 6 to all hospitals with forensic departments. Such hospitals include medical college hospitals, 200-bed general hospitals and upazila sadar hospitals.
The DMP letter sent on September 25 said detailed information of an autopsy report – which is like a secret document – can be used in many cases as important evidence during investigations and charge framing. Revealing such information to all during an investigation hampers the process, creating confusion among the people about the circumstances of death.
'No violation of Right to Information Act'
Article 7 of the Right to Information Act states that information related to cases under investigation, trial, or related to public security should not be disclosed.
Professor Sadeka Halim, former commissioner of Information Commission Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune that of the 32 articles of the Right to Information Act, at least six sub-articles under Article 7 bar citizens from getting information related to cases under investigation.
"But if a death was from a violation of human rights or is the result of corruption, then anybody can apply for information and the authorities are compelled to provide the information within 24 hours," she said.
Stressing that every family member has the right to know how their dear ones were killed, or what happened to them, Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said although there is a bar to providing such information, this must be published publicly at a suitable time.
Nur Khan, director of Ain o Salish Kendra (Centre for Law and Mediation), said authorities have been tightening freedom of expression and said such attempts would further prompt unruly police officials to be involved in crimes.
"Journalists and rights activists would not be able to reveal the truth if any crimes took place," Nur said. "(And) if the authorities succeeded in implementing their desire, it would establish a passive control over the media and gag freedom of expression."
Professor Zia Rahman, chairman of Dhaka University criminology department, said reducing the potential for corruption should be paramount in procedure.
“Whether there is a law protecting the police’s desire or not, the only concern should be transparency and accountability in the investigation.”