Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Bangladesh: Concerns over extra-judicial killings

[While speaking at the inaugural session, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed and former Awami League law minister Abdul Matin Khasru were engaged in a debate on the death of arrested persons at Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) custody and torture of detainees at police custody.Khasru said police are being used by the party in power to reap political benefits.]

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Concern at torture in custody, death in crossfire


Speakers at a seminar yesterday expressed grave concern at the torture in police custody and the death of arrestees in crossfire.

They said only reform in judicial system could play the pivotal role in checking these events.

The seminar on 'Criminal responsibility for torture : South Asian perspective ' was organised by Odhikar, a human rights organisation, in the city.

While speaking at the inaugural session, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed and former Awami League law minister Abdul Matin Khasru were engaged in a debate on the death of arrested persons at Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) custody and torture of detainees at police custody.

Khasru said police are being used by the party in power to reap political benefits.

"Our police force is so corrupt that it has minimum respect for human rights," he said, adding that the outdated method of investigation is also responsible for torture in police custody.

In reply, Moudud said police have been given too much power in the investigation process which sometimes breeds corruption.

"There is nobody to scrutinise the investigation conducted by the police and most incompetent police officer is appointed as court officer," the law minister said, adding that there is no coordination between public prosecutors and investigators.

Citing the examples of Ahsanullah Master killing and some bomb blast incidents, Khasru said the government issued press note even before the FIR (First Information Report) was lodged.

Such kind of practice by the government leads the investigation to a wrong direction, he added.

Criticising the death of arrestees in crossfire, Khasru said, "I congratulate the Rab, Chita and Cobra for nabbing the criminals but my request would be, please do not kill them before holding trial."

The law minister said those, who died in crossfire, were listed criminals.

There are lawyers who defend them to get bail from the court, he added.

Moudud said the death or torture in police custody has to be stopped.

" We are going to modernise our jail code to reduce violation of human rights inside the prison," he added.

Regarding sections 54 and 167, he said, "We cannot just take away the section 54 from the police and repeal the section 167."

The law minister said there should be separate body of police to investigate the cases.

Former chief justice Justice K M Hasan said it would be pathetic if law-enforcing agencies engage themselves in torture in the name of justice.

"People belonging to marginalised groups are often subjected to torture and harassment," he added.

Presided over by Odhikar President Tasneem Siddique, the inaugural session was also addressed by Dr Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University.

The Daily Star 12/10/2004

Improved law and order!
Between the sublime and the ridiculous

We find the statement of the parliamentary standing committee on home ministry that the law and order in Bangladesh has seen a marked improvement and is better than that of any time in the past, difficult to accept. The rather euphoric comment is belied by the realities on ground. Interestingly the previous committee had also felt satisfied at the state of law and order despite the facts and figures speaking to the contrary.

It seems that either the standing committee is working on a quite different set of information or its perspicacity of the truth is based on standards too sophisticated for us to fathom. Or else, their threshold of pain is so high and their ability to withstand the abysmal situation so great that render the figure of more than eleven unnatural deaths and three hundred and fifty crimes of various definitions every day on the average, a satisfactory situation.

Even to the most unsophisticated a comparison of the number of people killed in 2003 and 2004 indicates roughly an increase of almost twenty percent. Jan to June crime figures of the current year show an average daily homicide figure of more than eleven per day. Human rights group suggest that the figures are much higher than what the government statistics suggest.

Leaving aside the statistics of crime, the other determinants of a good law and order do not provide anything for the lawmakers or the people to feel ecstatic about.

We also find the committee chairman's euphoria on the state of crime in relation to the population rather extraordinary. We wonder whether they had taken the trouble of stepping out of the comfort of the parliamentary office and bothered to carry out a sample opinion survey on the current law and order before coming out with the self satisfying statement they did.

It would make sense to accept the reality and work to better the situation, rather than live in-a-make-believe world in regard to something so critically important and palpable as law and order.

Daily Star 12/10/2004