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Rights activists: Violation of torture prevention law in vogue

  • Published at 10:45 pm June 26th, 2019
The rights activists addresses a discussion on “Responsibilities to Prevent Torture” Under the banner of "Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights", at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity auditorium, on Wednesday, 26 June, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Supreme Court lawyer, Barrister Sara Hossain said despite there being the 2013 law, and an order from the apex court, torture during remands has become a common phenomenon

The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 that prohibits both mental and physical torture in any situation, and death in the custody of law enforcement agencies, are hardly being followed by the authorities concerned, rights campaigners have said.

Violating the law, torture is continued on those who are picked up for interrogation, with a significant number of innocent people falling victim to it, resulting in deaths in some cases, they observed.

Under the banner of "Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights", the rights activists were addressing a discussion on “Responsibilities to Prevent Torture” at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity auditorium, on Wednesday.

Supreme Court lawyer, Barrister Sara Hossain said despite there being the 2013 law, and an order from the apex court, torture during remands has become a common phenomenon.

“Not only that, the law enforcers put iron shackles on the legs of numerous inmates, and nobody is talking about it,” she said.

Claiming that most of the cases are deliberately procrastinated, Sara said, the law and the home ministries have been showing negligence in complying with the law.

“Has the Law Ministry ever questioned a magistrate why he or she grants remand to a suspect, leading to the latter’s torture in the name of interrogation?” she said. 

Sara, also a rights activist, thanked the prime minister for playing a major role in passing the law during her second tenure, and also rejecting the proposal from different law enforcement agencies to cancel the law. 

“This all happened because the prime minister supported the law because a number of her party colleagues suffered custodial torture in the past,” she added.

Sara, however, questioned whether the premier has ever asked, any of the government agencies concerned, whether they are following the law properly. 

Claiming that the government enacted the law considering the overall situation, the lawyer said: “This implies that the state admits to such custodial tortures, and deaths taking place.” 

Eminent jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik said the country is planning to graduate to a developed one by 2041, but it will not be possible even by 2061, if the practice of rightlessness continue to prevail.

Criticizing the malpractice of torture in the name of interrogation while in the custody of law enforcement agencies, he said: “Article-35 of the Constitution says that a suspect cannot be forced to submit his or her deposition against himself of herself.” 

But, the constitutional provision is grossly violated in a number of cases, he maintained, adding: “The Constitution is being violated in remand on a regular basis.” 

Another leading rights campaigner, Nur Khan Liton, said the law enforcement agencies grant impunity to, or show lethargy in taking action against any of their members. 

“Why is it taking so much time for the arrest of the very recently suspended Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Mizanur Rahman (who faces allegations of amassing illegal wealth)?” he questioned.

“Many audio tapes involving his conversation with the ACC officials have been leaked, but he is still at large,” he further said, asking: “How many lawsuits have been filed under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 so far?”

The masses usually do not want to sue others, and the issue turns out to something beyond imagination when it comes to filing a case against a law enforcing or state agency or its members, Liton furthered. 

According to him, a suspect not only face physical torture while on remand, but is also left traumatized. 

“Despite there being orders from the court, and circulars issued by the government to stop custodial torture, there is no sign of an end to it,” he concluded. 

Dhaka University Professor Asif Nazrul, in a written statement presented at the discussion, mentioned that constitutional pledges, court orders, and laws are failing to stop custodial torture. 

“Not a single person has been tried so far under the law, but many are facing  harassment when trying to lodge a case under the law,” he said.

“Although the law set a 210-day deadline to complete the trial proceedings in a case, the very first lawsuit filed under it has not been finished as of yet,” Asif Nazrul furthered. 

Moderated by Shireen Haq, executive founding member of Naripokkho, the event was addressed, among others, by Advocate Hasnat Qaiyum, and Limon Hossain, a Jhalakathi resident who lost his left leg after being mistaken for a criminal, and then being shot by Rapid Action Battalion in 2011.

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