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Stop custodial torture and deaths in Bangladesh, demand activists

At least 28 people have died in police custody in the past couple of years, according to media reports

Mohsin Howlader (right), seen with his family at their house in Dhaka on Feb. 9, shows pictures of his 14-year-old son Rakib, who died while in police custody in 2018

Mohsin Howlader (right), seen with his family at their house in Dhaka on Feb. 9, shows pictures of his 14-year-old son Rakib, who died while in police custody in 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 29, 2022 04:53 AM GMT

Updated: June 29, 2022 05:42 AM GMT

Human rights activists have expressed serious concern about Bangladesh’s failure to end custodial torture and killings.

Dhaka-based human rights group Ain O Salis Kendra (Law and Arbitration Center), quoting media reports, said at least 28 people have died in police custody in the past two years and five this year.

The group raised the issue at a program organized by the Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST) to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in Dhaka on June 27.

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The South Asian country's Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013, stipulates that police and other law enforcement agencies cannot extract confessional statements through torture.

The law says “any custodian torturing a detainee … attempting to commit, aiding and abetting to commit, or conspiring to commit an offense would be liable of committing offenses defined under the law.”

For any death in custody, the custodian would be awarded rigorous life imprisonment and the government must compensate family members of the affected, as the law prescribes.

“The job of the police is to conduct an investigation and submit the finding to the court. But what is happening in Bangladesh is torture, which often forces an innocent person to turn into a criminal"

But even though it has been nearly a decade since the law was enacted, only 24 cases have been tracked and action initiated against law enforcement agencies, said human rights activist Nur Khan Liton. 

“People are too scared. After being tortured, no one dares to file a case against law enforcement officials,” Liton told UCA News.

Physical torture during police interrogation has become a tradition in Bangladesh, said Father Anthony Sen, secretary of the justice and peace commission of Dinajpur Diocese.

“The job of the police is to conduct an investigation and submit the finding to the court. But what is happening in Bangladesh is torture, which often forces an innocent person to turn into a criminal. This practice is reprehensible and not acceptable,” the priest said.

Human rights organizations are demanding the government’s intervention to stop physical abuse and deaths in custody while working to raise public awareness on the issue.

Bangladesh is committed to stopping custodial torture and deaths as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), which prohibits torture, cruelty and degrading punishment or treatment in the custody of law enforcers.

About 4,000 people have become victims of extrajudicial and custodial killings in Bangladesh over the past two decades, according to Dhaka-based rights group Odhikar (Rights).

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