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JS passes bill to stop custodial deaths

Bangladesh on 25 October 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : Dhaka Tribune. Image Source: Christian Haugen

About five years after he placed it in the assembly, the House on Thursday passed the Torture and Custodial Death (prevention) Bill 2013

Police torture on Awami League MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury during the previous tenure of the BNP, prompted the leader to frame a law to prevent torture and death in custody of the police and other law enforcement agencies.

About five years after he placed it in the assembly, the House on Thursday passed the Torture and Custodial Death (prevention) Bill 2013, aimed at curbing tortures by the law enforcement agencies on common people under custody.

The House enacted the private members’ bill, as Saber Hossain Chowdhury proposed its passage in absence of the main opposition BNP.

As well as prohibiting physical and mental torture, the law stipulates that the police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Customs, Immigration, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), intelligence agencies, Ansar & VDP, Coast Guard and other public servants cannot extract confessional statement through torture.

The law says any custodian torturing a detainee would be liable of committing offences defined under the law. Again, any person attempting to commit, aiding and abetting to commit, or conspiring to commit an offence must be considered as an offender.

Besides, any suspect or criminal cannot be physically or mentally coerced or intimidated.

The law enforcement agencies could not justify their offences even during war-like situation, threat of war, internal political instability and emergency.

For any death in custody, thecustodian would be awarded with rigorous life imprisonment or a fine of Tk100,000. In addition, they must compensate family members of the affected with Tk200,000.

“During the rule of the BNP, I was confined to police custody. When I described the tortures to our leader, she asked to prepare a bill for stopping such torture in custody if we came to power,” Saber told the House while referring to the background of initiating such private member bill.

He said the constitution stipulated that none could do anything causing physical damage to people, curtailing their freedom, costing their property or tarnishing their image.

“But the constitutional rights are being violated repeatedly; the misuse of laws has been on.

“Different state organs, especially the law enforcing agencies, very often forget the fundamental rights of the people. In many cases, justice cannot be delivered,” said Saber Hossain Chowdhury.

He said the law would be a big “no” to such human rights violations.

According to the bill, the court will immediately record the statement of the victim if any accused person declared that they were tortured in custody. The court will then order physical examination of the victim by physicians. For the female detainees, female doctors would carry out the examination.

The law further says, any aggrieved person can turn to the court if they thought that the police could not carry out any investigation. In that case, the court could instruct for a judicial inquiry into the allegation.

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