Although laws have been passed to prevent death in the custody of law enforcement agencies, such incidents have not stopped in Bangladesh. The law has gradually become inactive. In the last two weeks, there have been four deaths in police custody in Dhaka, Sylhet and Bagerhat. In each case, the families alleged that the victims were tortured to death.
According to the Torture and Death in Custody (Prevention) Act-2013, there is scope to file a case for such deaths, but the families have not filed any case. Needless to say, the reason is fear or stress. This is an instance of no implementation of law despite its existence.
Human rights organisations can play role here, but this steadily fading. The question naturally arises, what is the role of human rights organisations if they do not stand by the victims in such incidents? Although there is a National Human Rights Commission, they have nothing to do with such cases the commission has not been given the legal authority to investigate the law enforcement. After a lengthy process, the commission can file a writ petition in the High Court, but it does not have the capacity to conduct the case.
According to the Ain O Salish Kendra, 12 accused died before and after their arrest from January to August. Although Raja Fakir (22) was allegedly tortured to death in Bagerhat, his family did not file a case as Raja Fakir was the accused in the murder case. The family was already weak mentally. Although he is accused in a murder case, there is no provision to sentence him without trial.
Deaths in the custody of law enforcement have become a very common occurrence in the country. In the last seven years, there have been 19 cases against the police for death in custody
The day after Raja Fakir's death, a young man named Masud Rana (33) died at Paltan Police Station in the capital. The relatives of the slain youth claim that he was tortured to death, which the police have denied as usual. Besides, the floor in-charge of Film Development Corporation Abu Bakkar Siddique died in the custody of Tejgaon Industrial Area Police Station on Sunday morning and Raihan Ahmed, 35, died at the Bandarbazar Police Outpost of Kotwali Police Station in Sylhet on the same day. Protestors took to the street and blocked Sylhet-Sunamganj road demanding action against the accused police officers.
Bangladesh signed the international convention against torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inwarrantedon 5 October 1998. In 2013, the law was passed in Bangladesh, the main point of which is that if an accused dies after arrest, a case can be filed and the responsibility for the incident will fall on the concerned officer.
A case was filed in 2014 after the law was passed. In the first verdict of the law on 9 September, three police officers of Pallabi police station were sentenced to life imprisonment for torturing and killing a driver named Ishtiaq Hossain. The other two accused were jailed for seven years.
Deaths in the custody of law enforcement have become a very common occurrence in the country. In the last seven years, there have been 19 cases against the police for death in custody. This means there are fewer cases under this law in comparison to the number of incidents.
The intolerant behavior of law enforcement under any circumstances is unwarranted. The government also needs to send a strong message to the law enforcement agencies to fulfill their responsibilities within the law. The existing flaws or weaknesses in the chain of command of the police need to be rectified. The law enforcement agencies will be able to carry out their duties with professionalism only if they stop considering themselves above the law.