Torture in custody: Investigation should be carried out under judicial magistrate

In most of the cases the provision of taking legal actions or punishment against members of law enforcement involving in torturing any accused in custody is ineffective. Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013, provides for the maximum life sentence for the perpetrator. Yet the number of deaths and torture of the accused in custody did not decrease.

According Ain O salish Kendra, 28 people have died in the custody of law enforcement in the past two years, including five this year. There is no account of how many people have been tortured. Many remain silent despite being tortured. They believe filing a case against the members of the law enforcement agencies will not bring any remedy. Because members from the department of the accused will conduct the investigation in the case.

Speakers at a seminar organised by the Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST) on the occasion of International Day in support of victims of torture on Monday expressed deep concern over the deaths and torture of accused in the custody of law enforcement agencies. They said there were clear guidelines in the law not to torture the accused in the name of interrogation. Investigating officers cannot take law in their own hands.

During the investigation, Limon Hossain of Jhalakathi and Imtiaz Hossain alias Rocky of Dhaka's Pallabi also spoke at the seminar. While investigating a case in 2011, RAB members shot 16-year-old Limon in the leg. In 2014, Pallabi police arrested Rocky and his brother Johnny. Johnny died while in the custody of law enforcement.

Supreme Court lawyer ZI Khan Panna drew attention to the matter and said that members of the law enforcement agencies could interrogate the accused in the interest of investigating the case. But interrogation does not mean that he has to be physically abused. Most cases of torture and death in the custody of law enforcement are not investigated. Although there are few investigation but those are not very effective. They also brought up such ridiculous statements as ‘accused committed suicide by tying shoelaces around his neck’ to cover up the crime.

It was possible to bring three police officers of Pallabi police station under punishment in the case of Johnny's death as a judicial magistrate investigated the matter. One of them was sentenced to life imprisonment and the other to seven years in prison. Although the two were in jail, the third accused escaped. The case is now awaiting a verdict in the High Court.

One of the recommendations of the commission, which was formed with the help of UNDP during the caretaker government, was to separate law enforcement and investigative agencies. The recommendations of that commission remain closed in file till the date.

It is important to implement the recommendations of the police commission for the minimum accountability of the law enforcement agencies. If a member of the police department is accused of torture and murder, the investigation cannot be entrusted to them in any way. The task of investigation should be given to the judicial magistrate. Otherwise, the brutality of the members of the law enforcement agencies in the name of interrogation will continue.